Commercial Estate in Valbonne

Valbonne is a small French town inland from the Côte d’Azur. Here, between holly oaks and pine trees, a new commercial estate has been built. The fact that a carefully designed ensemble was created instead of a run-of-the-mill industrial development is thanks largely to the commitment of the mayor. He recognized not only the great importance of trade and craft skills as an economic factor for Valbonne, but also the need to prevent the town from petering out in a loose sprawl. In 2005, he instigated a competition for the design of a 4,500 m2 commercial development on a site close to the old town centre. The proposals foresaw the subsequent sale of the property in small plots at reasonable prices. The winning entry in the competition was a compact urban planning concept: the architects proposed an ensemble with a layout extending to the boundaries of the site and consisting of four tracts drawn round a landscaped courtyard in which existing trees were incorporated. The open corners of the trapezoidal plan form allow views into the centre of the ensemble and also provide scope for routes that link the external realm with the enclosed space. The entrances to the studios and workshops face on to the planted courtyard, in which a parking area has also been unobtrusively integrated. In all, some 23 units were planned, ranging in size from 50 m2 to 900 m2. Based on the requisite areas for these units, a 7 ≈ 14 m standard module was developed, closed at the top with a pitched roof. Joined together with different axes, the units have resulted in the creation of a diverse roofscape. The facades are characterized by an interplay of different materials. Translucent polycarbonate panels, sliding wood doors, metal gratings and corrugated aluminium sheeting laid in different directions are contrasted with the exposed concrete wall drawn round the complex. Through the use of prefabricated timber structural elements and simple materials, it was possible to keep the construction costs to a minimum, thus allowing the studios to be sold at reasonable prices.
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