The winning architectural office of the 2001 competition, Reichen Robert & Associés, took on the challenge of converting the nineteenthcentury industrial site ‘Grands Moulins de Pantin’ into a 50,000 square-metre office complex which would meet the French HQE label (High Environmental Quality label), a national objective for sustainable building aiming at the improvement of the environmental quality of new and existing buildings. Environmental aspects must be integrated into every step of the process, including planning, designing, construction and management. The Grands Moulins project was granted the label for the design and the implementation phase. Around 22,000 square metres of the project involved the refurbishment of several retained old buildings. Although it was neither classified nor listed as a historic building, certain elements of the site’s industrial heritage had to be preserved, as Bernard Reichen explains. ‘We had a clear idea: we needed to find a way to bring the building back to life in the context of a new activity. To this end we preserved all the main architectural structures, the ones that defined the site’s image.’
Grands Moulins de Pantin
Grands Moulins de Pantin
An emblematic industrial heritage site in the northeast of Paris with a remarkable silhouette when viewed from the Paris ring road. Now in the hands of BNP Paribas Group, this former flour mill closed down in 2001. A successful large-scale conversion which was completed after nearly four years of construction.
The design was therefore based on the principle of retaining the two oldest buildings, referred to the architects as the small mill and the large mill, as well as the famous transporter bridge, which has today found a new function as an exhibition venue. Through the company Seralu, these three refurbished buildings have been fitted with Reynaers aluminium systems (CW 86-EF/VEC, CW 50-FV and XS 50-VEC) in existing frames, with new openings, curtain walls and inner façades overlooking the atrium.Three new buildings and two footbridges on two levels, the latter equipped with Reynaers door and window systems CW 50-FV, have been incorporated so that the entire complex is interlinked without the need to go outside. This ensures a very high level of security and comfort to users of this miniature town which operates 24 hours a day. The buildings house the main departments of the company BNP Securities Services, known as BP2S, a subsidiary of the BNP Paribas group, which specialises in asset management and is European leader in its sector.
The balance between rehabilitation and new construction
The painstaking work of this project required the interior of the buildings to be
stripped, emptying them of their silos and machinery, rebuilding new floors and in many cases lining the façades. The three tall buildings and their mansard roofs were retained. Two silos were demolished, and the third called the large mill which overlooked the canal was refurbished. Its tall concrete structure faced with small red bricks was pierced with new windows fitted with Reynaers XS 50-VEC sections. The demolished 1950s semolina processing plant was replaced by a new simple three-storey building. Brick, the characteristic material of the complex, has been used to advantage in both the conserved and new buildings. Thus the newly sleek mills have retained their tall silhouette, and the boiler room made of refractory bricks and the former machine room remain visible in the middle of the building that has been opened up with glass.
Maximum use of natural light, which is part of the HQE environmental approach, creates a genuinely pleasant atmosphere in the office floors. Their finest feature is without a doubt the atrium formed in what was once the boiler room of the large mill, an open space fitted with Reynaers sections, revolving around the original boiler. Before it closed down, some 450 staff worked in the flour mill. Today the site is highly secured and contains 3200 work stations, 800 parking spaces and two staff restaurants capable of seating 2200 diners and supplied by a central kitchen. The site no longer stores sacks of wheat but instead houses financial services and their trading rooms, provided with the ultimate in information technology in this sector. There are even those who see in this a continuation of the story of ‘wheat’ (blé being Parisian slang for money).