Overseas National Archive Centre

Treasure Chest

The Overseas Archives Centre houses archives from former French colonies. This project was for an extension to the existing building to provide the entry, exhibition areas, amenities and the principle reading room.

The precious collection required a building that would physically protect the documents, particularly through the control of light.

The building was conceived as a treasure chest; a beautiful box containing treasure. While the façade appears closed at first on approaching, it is revealed that a number of the panels peel away from the façade to form light wells that distribute indirect light into the reading rooms.

The façade consists of lightweight, prefabricated panels finished with plaster render, a traditional building technique in the south of France. Inner walls are lined with timber, providing a softness and warmth to the interior spaces that become enlivened by the play of light through the façade’s openings.

Location: Aix-en-Provence, France 43°30’52.21″N, 5°26’52.91″E
Date: 2006
Design team: Lacoste +Robain, Thierry Lacoste, Antoinette Robain
Photography / images: Lacoste+Stevenson Architects, Jean Marie Monthiers
Artwork: Giorgio de Chirico, The Enigma of the Arrival and the Afternoon, 1911-1912, fragment