A commitment to the local in a school overlooking the Seine. "Les Coteaux Fleuris School" por HEMAA Architectes

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HEMAA Architectes (Charles Hesters and Pierre Martin-Saint-Etienne), associated to Hesters Oyon.
City of Heudebouville.
1,500 sqm.
€ 4.5 Million.
February 2022.
Heudebouville, France.

Charles Hesters and Pierre Martin-Saint-Etienne HEMAA Architectes

Charles Hesters and Pierre Martin-Saint-Etienne, the brains behind Hemaa, place context at the center of their approach. Many architects of their generation would no doubt say the same. The originality of Hemaa lies not in this attention, but in the way it informs their architecture and influences the development of the project. The physical situation of the site is matched by the conceptual position of the proposal, which reconfigures, rethinks and reinvents the place through a series of questions that serve as a safeguard. What scale of building to fit into the context? What material expresses a local anchorage? How to amplify the use and keep a constructive quality? From the sum of these questions, an agile, flexible project emerges, dividing the program between different entities, different volumes. In this process of segmentation, the void takes on the importance of the full, the hollows, the interstices invite to inhabit the site as much as the built volumes. At the risk of being offside, Charles Hesters and Pierre Martin-Saint-Etienne never hesitate to take a step to the side in order to make the unexpected happen. The specifications of the competition are reviewed in light of the site even before the first sketches. A careful examination of the regulations and the topography prepares the reconfiguration of the public space by the project. For Hemaa, the benefits of an operation are not limited to its parcel. It extends to its immediate environment, by the loosening of the vis-àvis, the creation of squares, passages... In two words, the restitution of a public void by the private volumes.

Fragmentation is neither an artifice nor a crutch: it accompanies the quality of use. In housing programs, it leads to the reduction of the thickness of the building and favors the implementation of through apartments. In a school, the insertion of the program on a mode of the pavilion will leave views on the landscape and the possibility of implanting noues for the natural treatment of the infiltration of rainwater. After the mass plan, the constructive and material dimension questions again the context. What material would best fit into the project territory? Resolutely curious, Charles Hesters and Pierre Martin- Saint-Etienne explore without dogmatism the range of environmental technical solutions - wood, stone, earth - which they mix with traditional solutions, having for sole strategy to put the right material in the right place. The learning required by each constructive mode extends the skills of the agency, reinforcing it in a technical field of action that it considers inseparable from the profession of architect.

For Hemaa, therefore, a good architect is a good builder. He is also, as we have seen, a composer who interprets the qualities and defects of a site to prolong  its history. Charles Hesters and Pierre Martin-Saint-Etienne know that one day their projects may be transformed and rather than wait for this evolution, they prepare and anticipate it, imagining arrangements that will extend their buildings. In yesterday’s project lies the project of tomorrow. As a builder, composer and craftsman, Hemaa will not hesitate to use the tricks of the trade to make a building invisible, or on the contrary, to make it appear larger than it is when it is necessary to «hold» the site. By drawing on the sophisticated artifices of the architectural discipline, Hemaa invests its architecture with a soft magic, with the well-being of all the inhabitants of a city in mind.



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