An iconic masterpiece designed by Paris-based Hérault Arnod Architectes, the Contemporary Music Centre (SMAC) is a musical complex nestled at the corner of the Bel Ebat fairground, on the edge of the historic town centre of Evreux in France. Consisting of two auditoriums and recording studios, linked by a public space called the deck which runs from one side of the building to the other, the centre stands out as an architectural marvel with its dramatic contemporary design.
Image credit: Hérault Arnod Architectes
“This centre is designed on the principle that, instead of being mere consumers of entertainment, people can construct their own evening by moving from one place to the other,” remarks the architect. “The difficulty lies in the size relation between the new building, rather small and non-central, and the fairground, a huge empty esplanade. One of the challenges of the architecture is to create a synergy with the fairground activities – fetes, flea markets, circuses, etc.”
According to the architect, the structure has been designed to be dense, sculptural and autonomous as a way for it to “resist and exist in relation to the vast expanse of the fairground”. On the first floor is the main concert hall which protrudes out and hangs over the entrance on the northern side.
“For acoustic reasons, the concert rooms and recording studios are separate concrete boxes,” the architect explains further. “The whole structure is enveloped in a light metal skin, a double wall or over-roof that acts as an additional acoustic feature.”
With this treatment, the exterior of the centre is presented as a voluminous opaque form, composed of triangular facets, some of them made of polished stainless steel that reflects the surrounding trees.
The facade of the centre is a voluminous opaque form, composed of triangular facets, some of them made of polished stainless steel that reflects the surrounding trees.
“This component is imbued with a dual internal motion; the movement of the deck that crosses it and the movement of the roof which rises gradually to envelop the main auditorium,” the architect elaborates. “The deck operates like an immense interior/exterior hall stretching from the street to the esplanade. This course distributes and shows the different entities: main auditorium hall, local radio station studio, recording studios and the club, live-music café with its glass double facade fan folded for acoustic reasons.”
From here, the deck opens southwards to become a wide porch, an urban theatre that acts both as a terrace for the club, and as a stage for outdoor concerts or shows.