OMA’s design for the new École Centrale School of Engineering in Saclay, France is based on the concept of a “lab city.” The plan shows a collection of volumes collected under a low-level, ETFE-roofed superblock. This concept has multiple benefits and creates a contained mini city dedicated to science, technology and research. Clément Blanchet, director of OMA projects in France, explains “The design integrates urbanism with the school, supplanting the homogeneous experience of the campus. It’s an attempt to define the actual esthetic of science.”
Grid-connected streets within the building provide direct pathways around the project and also cultivate collaboration, chance meetings and generate a new typology for learning. A central pedestrian spine crosses the superblock and connects with the rest of the school and on the other side will connect with a new metro station headed to Paris. The enclosure not only contains the school, but also protects it from the elements. The result is like a city, but protected and filled with natural daylight. The project contains a variety of lab and office spaces as well as a gym, administration center and classrooms for first year students. The project was developed in collaboration with Bollinger and Grohman, Alto, DHV, DAL, and D’Ici Là.
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