The AIA Life Designers’ "Salle à tracer" is the 2018 winner of the National Prize for Wood Construction in the category "Rehabilitation of an equipment". The project was praised for its use of wood, both for the new extension and for its renovated section.
The Salle à tracer (Mold Loft) is a century-old building, an industrial heritage emblematic of Nantes' shipbuilding industry, a true heritage and a public good. Renovated and extended, the Salle à tracer became the new office of Nantes AIA Life Designers in 2017. Thanks to its history and its relationship with the Loire, the building has acquired an exceptional dimension. Its new use cycle allows its circa 250 employees, architects and engineers, to build a "shared architecture" together on a daily basis.
Massive use of wood
The word avant-garde is best used to describe the initial construction due to its mix of concrete, wood, and steel. On the existing structure, this approach is compounded by the integration, in each of the cells, of a wood/joinery unit manufactured in the workshop.
On the extension, the structure is composed of tilting gantries made of glued and laminated wood, and of simple poles topped by a "Polonceau" type truss.
Finally, the insulation uses only bio-sourced materials from the wood and clothing recycling sectors. With 240 dm/m of wood, the Salle à tracer is a low-carbon building.
Restoration and recycling of pre-existing wood
The original function of the Salle à tracer was to draw boat hulls to scale 1. The designers drew the blueprints directly on the ground, on a wooden floor that is now part of Nantes' heritage. Its scarified surface, dotted with brass markers, bears the imprint of its past human activity. Restored with high-pressure steam, its entire surface is now covered with a protective floor, whose "windows", akin to portholes, reveal the palimpsest dimension of the work.
On the city side, the recycling of the floor of the "non-noble" level allows the reception volume to be "covered" with brown wooden slats, thereby giving it the appearance of a boat hull, as a tribute.