Cultural Centre in Nouméa, New Caledonia

The architecture of this new centre was intended as an expression of the cultural origins of the native Melanesian people of New Caledonia in the South Pacific. It was also seen as a means of supporting their search for identity. Situated in an area of great natural beauty on a peninsula roughly 10 km from Nouméa, the capital, the complex is strung out along a slightly curving route 230 metres long. On one face, the strip is oriented to the wind and the storm-tossed sea; on the other face, to the tranquil waters of a lagoon. The individual buildings, which contain a wide range of cultural facilities, seek to forge a link between tradition and modernism. They contain references to traditional forms of construction and at the same time employ state-of-the-art technology. The development is attuned to the climatic conditions of the location and shows an awareness of environmental constraints. The links with tradition are established through the adoption of hut-like forms and their grouping to create individual villages; through the extensive use of timber; and through conceptual references. On one side of the linear axis are the tall “huts” in which communal spaces are accommodated. On the other side are low, transparent volumes with exhibition facilities and offices. A concert hall with space for 400 persons is sunk into the ground. The unique character of this development derives from the timber shell-like structures of the buildings. The outer wood-strip cladding is reminiscent of the traditional woven texture of the local huts. The load-bearing structure itself consists of laminated timber elements with cast-steel connecting pieces. The laminated members are connected at 2.25 m centres by horizontal steel tubes and are diagonally braced. The entire shell construction is extremely strong and can withstand typhoon winds of up to 240 km/h. The double-layer wall construction also facilitates a natural form of ventilation. The cavity between the curved outer skin and the vertical inner skin functions as a warm-air stack and serves to regulate air currents. Flaps operated by sensory and measuring appliances can be opened or closed to control the circulation of air through the façade and the interior spaces.
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