Going back to the paint shop

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When Daniel Rubin talks about the last thirty years’ public works projects he has shared with his brother Patrick, which are always attributed to their architecture studio Canal, he cannot avoid describing them in perceptual terms and sometimes paradoxically, for example by saying that a wall is “velvet-like”. For him, perceptions are not only a whole, but also crossed, so what he sees involves sounds and how he hears things changes depending on colour. He is well-versed in applied arts, so graphics or decoration are integral to his architecture, and that will never change.   

The most recent illustration is the cultural centre in La Roche-sur-Yon in western France with the pretty acronym CYEL aka the Yonne Centre for Free Expression, inaugurated in 2017. It also shows why this both practical and poetic architect has been able to rely on Texaa®’s products during a career with brilliant highlights such as the designs for Terminal 2F of Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle airport, the Paris 13 Media Library and Strasbourg’s National Theatre.

The acoustic properties of the company’s products with the lovely knits that cover them are not all that he likes: he loves to be able “to play with all the possibilities they have in their workshop. They basically invite me to toss ideas around in trust with their developers, who are much brighter than just engineers. This type of exchange has become too rare these days. With Texaa®, he explains, design goes back to being a game, which elsewhere you don’t even dream of any more.”

To achieve his goals, Daniel sets out to define every dimension of a project, facing both architectural and technical challenges. Colour plays a major role, especially in his monochrome designs, which enable him “to develop the volume of a space without emphasizing anything”. In order to “build these colours”, the already rich palette of 22 tones proposed for Texaa®’s sound-transparent fabric Aeria*is not always wide enough. Daniel uses “special colours”, tailor-made by Texaa®. Since he has had this freedom, he says, “It’s like going back to the paint shop when I was a kid. It expands your imagination and you know you can produce your design with the exact colour you wanted.”

At the CYEL centre in La Roche-sur-Yon, which houses the Music, Dance and Drama Conservatories with the Art School and its exhibition area, Daniel wanted the architecture of the inside skin to be coloured and acoustic. He also wanted the absorbent wall coverings to contribute to the transitions between areas, both physically and in terms of the states of mind developed by the display of these “sound colours”.

The enormous atrium, designed to be a very large and very high central public space, where people walk and meet in the light of its glass roof, has absinthe green Vibrasto acoustic covering on its opposing walls. This shade of green almost solely produces an echo of coloured light, reminiscent of the hall’s sound reverberation.

Moving from the atrium to the teaching and activity areas, “the deep purple” of the acoustic wall covering slows the pace and naturally concentrates the thoughts. “The kids get it quite well and sometimes end up just sitting on the ground in silence,” notes Daniel Rubin. In the auditorium, another “colour-material, mute-purple” produces an enveloping absorbent monochrome “that helps you focus your perception on the stage, and not on other coloured items or sparkling theatrical lights. Everything blends into this pacifying purple just as sounds are captured by the absorbent fabric”.

The different shapes of Texaa®’s acoustic products and their installation systems encourage a lot of inventiveness. Daniel takes full advantage of this design freedom to implement this colour, acoustic and spatial strategy.

Total surface area covered with Vibrasto system 30:  2,294.55 sq. m (24,698.33 sq. ft)

Absinthe green 912 sq. m (9,816.69 sq. ft) in the hall and atrium

Arpégio and Eglantine (two shades of purple) 1,316.55 sq. m (14,171.23 sq. ft) in the other areas and auditorium

Principal:  La Roche-sur-Yon municipal council
Architect: Canal architectural studio – Daniel Rubin
Acoustics: Via Sonora
Experience design: Actes
Installers: Briand (Les Herbiers, western France) and Guitteny (Saint-Julien-de-Concelles, east of Nantes)
Photographers: Philippe Bertheau and David Fugere.