The headquarter of the International SETEC, located in Vitrolles in the south of France, formerly EPAREB (Etablissement Public d’Aménagement des Rives de l’Etang de Berre) was built in several phases. Firstly, in the 70s, Jean Prouvé implemented “Petroff system” developing a three-dimensional structural steel sheet and plexiglass panels on the front. This device would allow to cover a large area without increasing the bearing points, which in turn was covered by aluminium stiffeners attached to the work front.
As an engineer, architect, metal-worker and designer, Jean Prouvé introduced technological advancements in fabrication to the construction of architecture. In 2011, for the design of a new adjacent office building, the same criteria of economy, flexibility, quality of light and material efficiency were explored as inspirations for design, to explore material through various solutions. The projected volume is a parallelepiped located on a slope, on the property line and perpendicular to the limit. An overhang adjacent to existing and project buildings can join and create a link between the covered buildings. The building consists of a set level partly buried concrete on which is placed a floor office metal frame.
Constraints such as budget, space requirements, and possible future programmatic variation called for an exploration of the building skin. Various screens were tested for their structural and daylighting qualities. The flexibility of the open plan would allow the structure to be easily adapted to residential use. Natural lighting is prefered, facades exposed are protected by a large overhang. This sunscreen is made of white bright resin panels. The final device is the result of several proposals presented to client from contemporary reference, from Mathieu Mategot to the Fernand Pouillon arcade revisited. The repeated arches act as a simplified form to easily suggest or emulate the effect of a pine forest canopy similar to that surrounding the Fondation Maeght in Saint-Paul de Vence. Cost and aesthetic, normally acting in opposition to each other, are able to become singular in an emulation of Prouvé’s process. The resulting design aims to stand complimentary to, not in contrast to, the existing building, emulating Prouvé’s process in order to marry style and economy.