This futuristic-looking and prize-winning edifice is part of an programme of works at the 20-hectare campus which form part of the regional government’s ongoing provision of the technological, engineering and science academy ENSIACET (Ecole Nationale Supérieur des Ingénieurs en Arts Chimiques et Technologiques). It incorporates an existing gymnasium, while providing a new salle multisports, salle d’escalade (climbing wall gym), office/service/changing area, and an impressive new entrance.

The new entrance sits at the heart of the building, opening on to a long narrow strip of open garden, described by Laurens as a “breath”, between the new and exisiting gyms. Utilities are consigned to a “sober linear block”, running perpendicular to the main axis of the overall complex and covered with vertical black-veined steel cladding from Arcelor Mittal. This small volume, seems to disappear behind the visually striking main elements of the building, the functions of which are hinted at in their external form and skin. 

The verticality of the building dedicated to climbing is reinforced by the treatment of its exterior, says Laurens, a partner at Toulouse-based practice Laurens & Loustau Architects. This comprises silver-coloured ISCOM self-bending Riverclack aluminium cladding with inclined parallel standing seams, the angles of which are softened by the curved corners of the building. The climbing wall gym is “wrapped” in the concealed fixing roofing system, he adds, rather than enclosed in four walls.

A dialogue already established between the positioning of the newly enlarged steel-framed sports centre and proposed adjacent school of chemistry is reinforced, says Laurens, by the shape of the new gymnasium, which tilts dynamically towards it and looks nothing like a typical sports building.

The new, 45mx25m multi-sport gymnasium is clad on its three out-ward facing facades with gold-coloured Bac Frequence 13.18 ribbed steel plate galvanised steel cladding from Arecelor Mittal, On this larger building, however the cladding in narrowly corrugated.

This industrial material is both standard and inexpensive, says Laurens, yet it is supple and soft enough to enable the building to appear as if wrapped, and its standard gold colour responds wonderfully to the changing light and weather conditions “in precise and noble-looking way”.

The building’s fourth, northeast elevation “opens both widely and discreetly so as to overlook the linear garden within”, and the gym enjoys constant natural illumination, from a combination of glazing and higher-level clear polycarbonate panels.

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