Text by Sara Johnson
The commune of Saint-Paul sits on the northwest coast of La Réunion, a 193-square-mile French island located roughly 400 miles east of Madagascar. In 2013, Saint-Paul began construction of a new library building designed by Paris firm Périphériques Architectes. The €13.17 million ($14.8 million) building was completed this April. Meanwhile, the city’s leadership has changed and the building has been sold. Today, it stands empty and the final program remains unknown, although turning it into a mixed-use facility, including music and dance programming, is one possibility.
The 49,159-square-foot building’s façade takes cues from the initial program. The wavy, aluminum-fin-clad façade is designed to mimic a stack of book pages, and contains 19 scattered eye-shaped openings—four on the west, six on the east, and nine on the north—which come in two sizes. “It’s a mix between an eye to overlook the city, and the gesture that you must do to see through venetian blinds,” says David Trottin, the partner in charge of the project.
Paris-based Polish artist Michal Batory received the commission to create illustrations for the ceilings, which are printed on removable canvas panels. “He spent two weeks on La Réunion taking a lot of pictures that he reworked as a collage,” Trottin says. The floors are coated in epoxy resin.
The seven-level structure is a mix of single- and double-height spaces, each with views to the perimeter walls and natural daylight. Behind the fixed sunshades of the outermost façade is an inner layer of steel-framed, operable glass louvers that provide natural ventilation to the interior. Several terraces dot the structure. The perforated, anodized-aluminum fins on the outer façade serve as sunshades that help to regulate the temperature on the open-air platforms, while the eye-shaped openings frame views of the surrounding landscape.
Cost: €13.17 million ($14.8 million)