Architecture

A Government Building That Channels Monet? Only in France

Jacques Ferrier’s design for the city of Rouen's offices takes a cue from the painter with its dramatic glass screens.

Cities across Europe have made showpiece public buildings catalysts for revitalizing their formerly industrial waterfronts. One shining recent example is the Métropole Rouen Normandie headquarters, which houses municipal government offices on the banks of the Seine near the city’s active port. Designed by French architect Jacques Ferrier, the 89,000-square-foot building, completed last year, is a simple box wrapped in dramatic diagonal screens set with iridescent glass tiles. Not only do the screens reflect light from the river and change in appearance depending on the time of day—the colors and pattern of the glass create a pixelated version of a Monet painting—it also allows in daylight from some angles and shades interior spaces from others, diminishing the need for mechanical cooling on sunny days. The building’s layout, rooftop solar panels, and other systems are designed to allow it to be self-sufficient when it comes to energy consumption. The idea is to set an example for future development in what the city envisions as a district of ecologically minded buildings centered on a park—bringing urban life to once-dormant blocks.

Glass-tiled screens filter and play with light.
Ferrier's design makes optimal use of natural light.
Subdued textures and an open floor plan command the building's interior.
The MRN headquarters at dusk.

(Photos: Luc Boegly)

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