Surreal French Public Building Evokes Magritte
A gigantic yellow foyer five stories high dwarfs the small human by the doorway of “La Cite Des Affaires” in Saint-Etienne by Manuelle Gautrand Architecture, yet with its childlike and cheery color and goofy windows, the entry is not forbidding or grand.
These simultaneously imposing and yet almost comic spaces that all frame various sky views in surrealistic ways are created as ways into a government office building complex.
Look at how the sliver of sky from this angle perfectly frames, echoes and reverses the shape of the building seen through the canopy.
Here, another void space as real as the volume it contains, creates a gigantic frame for the sky.
Does this remind you of the surreality of Magritte’s art – which is about – ahem – about dealing with faceless bureaucracies?
These various entrances, shouting out their accessibility in yellow, are chunks of space boldly carved out of the cube shapes of the buildings.
The huge complex creates a city within a city in a town almost six hundred years old.
Look back at the old town. Now all the scattered and random-seeming windows are seen to echo the small windows of another time.
The yellow is like a bright lining to the tedious grays of glass and concrete of any office building.
Getting outside the complex in the Grüner district of Saint-Etienne, you see that it is actually a normal office building color and texture on the outside.
Bold contrasting yellow denotes all the ways in.
Apart from the visual originality, look at how large that cantilevered section is! What an engineering feat!