31-05-2023 Natural stone

An architecture contest for imagining the possibilities of “adaptable stone”

Four 2-person teams imagined how natural stone can be adapted in order to adjust, reuse, or transform an existing construction.

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How can natural stone be adapted in order to adjust, reuse, or transform an existing construction? The “Construire en pierre structurelle” (build with structural stone) contest challenges architectural students to imagine innovative solutions that give pride of place to natural stone. Four 2-person teams were rewarded for their work at the 2023 edition. See their projects below!

A source of inspiration for architects on the lookout for a multi-use material

The “Construire en pierre structurelle” contest is a yearly architectural challenge that has been running since 2016. It is organized by France’s National Higher School of Architecture (ENSA), Paris-Val de Seine and its materials library. In 2023 it was held in partnership with the National Syndicate of Ornamental and Construction Rock Industries (SNROC) and the Les Pierres Sauvage (wild stones) association of Belcastel.

Starting with its third edition, the contest has put the spotlight on natural stone via a set theme:

  • 2018: “Water and stone”
  • 2019: “Never alone”
  • 2021: “Living in stone”
  • 2022: “Future stone landscapes”
  • 2023: “Adaptable stone: Adjust, reuse, transform”

Every year, candidates set to work on projects that revolve around putting the life back into existing spaces and constructions. This makes them an interesting source of inspiration when it comes to promoting the multiple uses of natural stone in architecture!

You can discover these projects in the exhibition hall of the ENSA Paris-Val de Seine academy.

1st prize: Théo RICARD and Léo CHANFRAY, “La greffe”, ENSA Montpellier
 


This project in “La Paillade” district of the southern French city of Montpellier provides an alternative answer to the gentrification of large-scale 1960s building projects, often torn apart then rebuilt, which has become something of a trend. With “La Greffe”, the winning team have imagined a new urban feature built with the natural stone already available on the site.

We have imagined an original construction system whereby this non load-bearing stone is transformed into a replicable, load-bearing assembly module. We thus designed an assembly of four interlocked stone stays, now making a thickness of 75cm. The arrangement of modules with each other keeps cutting to a minimum. The load-bearing beams complete the whole structure, “keying” the assembly. They are protected on the outer face of the walls by an ornamental brass plate that highlights this element.

The project also re-establishes social life in the complex by transforming the stores, creating a media library, and repurposing the rooftop as a communal space.

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2nd prize: Coline ASQUIN and Aminata DIALLO, “Project VIII”, ENSA Lyon


This team’s worked is centered on the Italian town of Carrare and the imagination of a lighthouse for its port that will be visible from both the marble quarries and the sea. And it is built from one of the finest marbles in the world. Carrare’s own marble is put to work here as a witness to the town’s history, its stone, and its construction techniques.

Faced with the disappearance of construction techniques using marble for structural stonework and the dwindling of the local marble sector, a situation has arisen that informs a burning necessity to change the world’s relation with marble and the town of Carrare. Hence the project has a duty to ensure that the act of building, the construction techniques, and above all the narrative feature large. In doing so, through the architects’ activity, the stone travels locally in order to shine worldwide.

The project imagines a play between light and material, by which the lighthouse lights up from the inside at night and takes advantage of Carrare marble’s renowned translucency.

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3rd prize: Colleen DOHERTY and Pierre GUILLAUME, “The history of Le Châtelet re-chiseled in stone”, ENSA Saint-Etienne


To the northwest of the French city of Saint-Étienne, in a “Natura 2000” listed area, is a Roman chapel adjoined to the ruins of an 18th century farm. Accessible by footpath or by boat, it's a key witness of the Loire Gorges that this team wants to re-enhance.

In a liberating constraint,
The dimensions of the biosourced stones decide their position;
erasing distance-related costs
the altar, formerly a lintel, becomes a transom;
the available earth, the mortar;
the timber of the arches, the joinery;
expanded rock, roof insulation, humidity control, comfort.

The location’s geometry follows its natural path;
the art of stereotomy dictates the project’s volume:
pink granite archstones prefabricated 5km away at the Rochains quarry, 
then, the recovered stone protects the ruin from foul weather.
An urban metabolism lever.
Look: toolmarks left by Alain.

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Special mention: Delphine BONTE and Simon HARDY, “Building the plaza”, ENSA Nantes


This team’s vast project sets the scene for the Nantes North district in France and imagines an urban program to the scale of the plot, combining public spaces with variety of use in redefining this historical site. It involves deep thinking on floor space indexes and circulation areas. 

Natural stone shows its face on several fronts, notably:

  • A load bearing, solid stone facade, 35cm thick
  • Corbelled natural stone vaults
  • Interior load bearing wall construction system using solid stone

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You can do a lot of things with natural stone, and many architects already understand the importance of this material of the future. The Rocalia trade show hosts the “Building with natural stone in the 21st century” contest every two years. You can meet our 2023 winners at the next edition of the only trade show dedicated to natural stone, taking place December 5th to 7th, 2023!

Discover Rocalia trade show
 

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