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Patrick Berger's work embodies the continuity of the subject As early as 1988, in his project for the conversion of the railway viaduct in Paris' 12th arrondissement, he explored, beyond widespread formalism, a poetic of the city. This demanded a complex approach to prevailing circumstances and the concrete means to transform them. Completed in 1996, the Viaduc des Arts confirmed in its material conviction the architect's untroubled Rationalism. The urban value of the project lies in the legibility of the composition (magnifying the beauty of the existing ordinariness) and the semantic register of the materials (the exotic timber and glass construction in combination with the old brick arches). Conceived 12 years later, the social and cultural centre for the RATP (RĂ©gie Autonome des Transports Parisiens - the major transit authority responsible for public transport in Paris) is testament to these same qualities.

In the 20th arrondissement, on an industrial site undergoing extensive changes (master-planned by Berger), the cultural centre accommodates a varied programme. Completely detached, the building takes the form of a compact block fronted by four identical facades. The plan and section were handled meticulously to express the specificities of the programme. At the heart of the block, four volumes of different scales are superimposed: the salle des grandes formations musicales which occupies two basement levels; the multipurpose room situated at ground level; the dance studio; and finally the open-air patio fitted out as a play area for children. Each volume, perfect in its isolation, benefits from a specific treatment. The facades, made out of glass, hardwood and aluminium, are subdivided in a regular pattern, giving the building a unitary but not severe appearance.

The narrow partitioning of the glass, timber and aluminium envelope gives the building a gentle and yet powerful homogeneity.

One of the two spatial fractures between the central and lateral blocks.

Second-floor plan. The dance studio is flanked by staircases and surrounded by the smaller studios of the music school.

Cross-section revealing the complexity of the programme concealed in the ensemble's volumetric simplicity.

One of the two spatial fractures between the central and lateral blocks.

Cross-section revealing the complexity of the programme concealed in the ensemble's volumetric simplicity.

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