A careful balance of contemporary and traditional building techniques have been used for this sensitive transformation of a historic monument into a new cultural equipment for the city of Clermont Ferrand.

The 17th century Hôtel-Dieu hospital building and garden, unoccupied for years, is a historical emblem in the town of Clermont-Ferrand which is now being transformed into an expansive new library and cultural hub.

The existing fabric will be minutely restored and a spectacular contemporary light box spanning 40 x 45m will be inserted at the heart of the historical U-configuration to create a central forum for which the carefully-preserved monumental stone staircase provides a natural focal point. This double-height volume, which houses café, community and reception areas, will bask in delicately-filtered natural light.

The basement created underneath the forum loops around a network of existing cellars which were formerly used to store the hospital’s supply of wine. New basement walls will be poured in stratified layers, echoing the existing geological blueprint of this volcanic site.

The 1,500m² library will focus on responsible use of materials such as locally sourced volcanic stone and engineered timber. The strict timber grid of the roof contrasts with a visually random arrangement of slender steel columns, the design of the flexible floor layout being driven by the underground labyrinth of cellars.

Roof beams are constructed from laminated veneer lumber (LVL); this deep-beam manufacturing technique is well-suited for the long spans required by the architectural programme and for the external cantilevers which provide shade to the building envelope. The timber grid also provides lateral support to the tall glass external skin, which is engineered for maximum transparency in order to focus views onto the historical facades of the Hotel Dieu.

The roof cladding is a multipurpose skin providing shelter, drainage and ventilation, for which the proportions of transparent and opaque infill have been carefully balanced to provide visual comfort and optimize the use of natural lighting, while at the same time strongly limiting solar gains to avoid summer overheating.

Clermont Ferrand, France

Clermont-Auvergne Metropole

Stanton Williams