This former barracks site in the heart of the new Chauveau Beaumont district was once hemmed in by the city, but is now open and appropriable. The new National Choreographic Centre (CCN) thus benefits from the large clearing in the central garden which makes it an immediate landmark for the future inhabitants of the district. However, it is also located on the northern boundary of the site, and must therefore deal with a domestic scale. The program features three increasingly large dance studios, workplaces and entertainment venues. The SCC also includes residential zones (accommodation for dancers) and a reception hall that has more than a distributive function: it used as a place of information and also for the informal dissemination of knowledge. Like any entertainment venue, the typological form of the project induces an expressive volumetry modelled by the large vessels of the theatres. The design opts for great compactness, permitting a sculptural form, albeit on an identifiable scale and above all, great flexibility of use, even for the majestic spaces of the dance studios. The project’s aim is to include all the spaces, including the major ones in the dance studios, in a large, all-encompassing form. The ambition of the project is to build a shelter for the show, like a large raised tent. The building’s template is conditioned by the tall heights required for the performance halls and the constraints of the Local Master Plan. The capable volume of the performance spaces is enclosed by large oblique facades made up of clear or translucent glass panels.
The project is guided by a striking choice of location: the two largest dance studios are brought together, facing each other on the first level, separated by thick walls which provide the necessary soundproofing. Their perimeters are easily retractable to permit their fusion for a large performance space to serve the entire building. One premise guides this choice: the floor is the primary support for dance and must therefore be highlighted, even if it means ‘overflowing’ the perimeters normally designated for stage sets when necessary. The tiers are also removable to provide the greatest possible flexibility in configuration. The entire backstage area runs along the lateral edge of the large platform, set against the east gable of the building. It is designed with enough depth to hold the dressing rooms, meeting rooms and rooms for dancers, each one occupying an appropriate level. The lateralities of the dance floors are cleared in the constant concern to permit the greatest possible appropriation. Two large five metre wide lanes are left free along the main facades, not only for traffic easements but also to be appropriated by stage sets. The large overall volume of the dance floors is protected by a large latticework portico resting on oblique posts. The lighting and ventilation grating crosses the full span and thus becomes both a logistical and structural element of the project, helping to brace the structure.
The new National Choreographic Centre of Tours thus asserts itself as a project governed by a pure spirit of logic. Its spatial layout, the shape of the building, the structural logic and even the scale of the façade components are mutually deduced from a key decision: to make the largest possible amount of space available for dance. Its typological form does not evoke a theatre so much as much as a‘fairground’ (between a tent and a tipi). It shows that architecture, far from having to draw and predict everything, only provides an initial impulse, albeit with enough momentum to ensure a firm layout, a robust structure, a neat design and a building whose clarity of organization is obvious. Users are then free to appropriate this vessel according to their creative desires. As in dance, this architecture exhibits the right gesture that infuses movement.