With a “double skin”, the former officers mess is reborn into a campus for Essca

An “extremely limited and technical building. The renovation of the gigantic officers’ mess of the former Niel barracks in Bordeaux, begun in April 2021, has at times caused headaches for the team of architects and Eiffage Construction, who are in charge of the project. “It would have been clearly easier and cheaper to shave everything and build a new building,” says Fabien Gauthier, architect at the Guiraud-Manenc bureau. The project manager is nevertheless “delighted” to have been able to preserve this historic 19th-century building and carry out an innovative, sometimes experimental architectural project there.

Rehabilitation work on the former officers mess Bastide-Niel, which will be transformed into the Essca campus. – Guiraud Manenc and MNP Vacher Architects and employees

The officers’ mess, taken over by the Essca management school (Ecole Supérieure des Sciences Commerciales d’Angers), which will establish its second Bordeaux campus there at the start of the 2023 school year, will retain its outer shell and go up three levels, to reach 5,500 m2 to house approximately one thousand management students. Operational costs: 17 million euros (excl. VAT).

The Essca management school project, in the former officers' mess of the Niel barracks in Bordeaux
The Essca management school project, in the former officers’ mess of the Niel barracks in Bordeaux – Agence Guiraud-Manenc

Build as modular as possible

The first restriction was that of Winy Maas, the architect-urban planner of the ZAC Bastide-Niel, a 35 hectare site on the former Niel barracks, which is gradually being transformed into a new area of ​​housing, offices and campus, on the right bank of Bordeaux . Patrick Vacher, architect at MNP Vacher, the other agency responsible for the Essca project, points out that “all architects working in this sector are not completely free to do what they want, we are limited in a blueprint of volume , with sections in all directions.” The cut-out sides of the buildings desired by Winy Maas will be used to create a whole system of natural ventilation and shadows cast from one structure to another, throughout the ZAC.

The other limitation is that of the school, which of course has its own specifications, with classrooms, an amphitheater, foyers… Although the architects had a duty to save the building, they soon decided not only to keep the outer shell , but opted for demolition-reconstruction inside. “Our choice was to create a shell from the inside that touches the existing walls,” says Patrick Vacher.

“We scalped the building”

In concrete terms: “we started by dismantling all the floors of the building,” explains Fabien Gauthier. Then we had to remove the roof – we literally scalped the building –, reinforce the facade, then we started cleaning up the interior and tearing everything down. When the curator of the building was ready, “we laid the foundations, with micropiles driven to a depth of 30-35 meters. †

The building is fully cured inside
The building has been completely cleaned inside – Guiraud Manenc and MNP Vacher Architectes et Associés
Rehabilitation works on the former officers mess of the Bastide-Niel barracks, which will house the Essca business school
Rehabilitation works on the former officers mess of the Bastide-Niel barracks, which will house the Essca business school – Mickaël Bosredon / 20Minutes

Then came the stage of creating the “double skin” of the building. “We built a box in the box, summarizes Fabien Gauthier, with a concrete wall that comes behind the existing stone walls. » In the end, the old building is preserved by the new building, up to the 3rd floor, then three additional floors were added on top, knowing that the building even goes up to R + 7 if we count the floor dedicated to technical elements.

Interior works in the former officers' mess of the Nielkazerne, which is being transformed into an Essca management school
Interior works in the former officers’ mess of the Nielkazerne, which is being transformed into an Essca management school – Mickaël Bosredon / 20Minutes

This system will make it possible to take advantage of a building that is as modular as possible, with an electrical network on the ground, making it possible to dismantle the plaster walls if necessary. “This is an important point for the project as Essca is going to develop,” emphasizes Christophe Chanteloube, Real Estate Project Manager at Essca.

“We have created outdoor spaces inside the building”

Once these challenges were met, the architects were not done with the constraints. “It’s a building with no outdoor space,” notes Patrick Vacher, but a teaching place needs relaxation areas, which are often located in a courtyard, so we re-created outdoor spaces on the inside of the building. For example, there is an outdoor terrace on the 5th floor It will be covered with a metal envelope of the “greenhouse” type. And even if it will be open to wind and rain, “it will be the main convivial space of this school”, assures Fabien Gauthier, thanks in particular to the panoramic view of Bordeaux.

The terrace greenhouse of the future Essca management school in the former officers' mess of the Niel barracks in Bordeaux
The terrace greenhouse of the future Essca management school in the former officers’ mess of the Niel barracks in Bordeaux – Agence Guiraud-Manenc

“One of the other big challenges of the ZAC relates to the work of the material and the envelope,” notes Fabien Gauthier. A unique material between the facades and the roofs was thus imposed on the architects, which will eventually give a monochrome box, but with an aspect of “pixelation” or “scales”, thanks to the choice of materials, of the cristo (recombined marble) and three types of glass, which through a series of tendencies “will make this envelope sparkle and sparkle.”

“The design of the school is made around the students”

“The design of this school is made around the students, emphasizes Brigitte de Faultrier, director of the Essca campus in Bordeaux. We have taken into account the classrooms and their lighting, but also all contact points outside the classroom, so that students can meet each other, or with members of the administration… There will also be a rest and dining area on the ground floor and open spaces on each floor. †

Essca already has another campus in Bordeaux, in the Bassins à Flot district. It will offer a Grande Ecole and an undergraduate program at its two Bordeaux locations. A course that costs about 12,000 euros a year, knowing that the school has an internal scholarship scheme and also offers work-learning contracts with companies.

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