Provincial, Capitol Building
Venturi, Scott Brown & Ass., in association with Anderson/Schwartz Architects and Hermet-Blanc-Delagausie-Mommens/Atelier A4, won the International Competition to design the Provincial, Capitol Building for the province of the Haute-Garonne in 1992.
The program called for an administrative and legislative complex including offices, the legislative assembly chamber, public services, various public and governmental support spaces, three levels of underground parking for public and staff, and outdoor and indoor ceremonial spaces.
The design challenge was to insert this inherently large and potentially imposing building into a smaller-scaled commercial/residential quarter of Toulouse, and to combine the repetitive office units with monumental forms appropriate to the official and ceremonial functions of government.
The building’s siting in the center of the site, framed by landscaped park and gardens, softens its impact in this neighborhood, while allowing the possibility of future expansion of smaller increments nearer the perimeter of the site.
A large park facing the Canal du Midi enhances the neighborhood and provides a setting for the building along the Canal where one can see the great curved section of the building as a reflection of the curve of the Garonne in this area, as it flows to the sea.
The solution arranges offices in two slender six-story wings of flexible loft space linked by two glass-clad bridges. These linear administration buildings frame a pedestrian way, a “civic street” that crosses the site diagonally and via a monumental entrance connects the site of an historic city gate near the Canal du Midi bridge – replicated with two columns – with Toulouse’s commercial center.
Covered bridges in glass span the pedestrian street connecting the two wings of the building at two locations. They offer dramatic views from within the complex and, by their form and silhouette, serve as symbolic gateways to the civic crescent.
At the center of the site one wing bows outward to create the crescent-shaped public space along this civic street, the focus of the departmental offices and the public entrance court to the services as well as the legislative chamber. The surfaces of the interior court contain the same windows, and are of brick so the “street” evokes the rosy aura of the historical streets of Toulouse; one of the very few “brick” cities in France. Important forms such as those of the Hall d’Honneur and Salle du Conseil Général are sheathed in glass curtain walls.
The bridges and the colonnades of the street and crescent represent and celebrate historical architectural elements of the Haute-Garonne, but do not reproduce them directly. These very flexible and repetitive office buildings are complemented by and contrasted with the state assembly wing.
As prime architect, VSBA provided complete design services and construction documents in metric for the project. Major construction administration was performed by a French associate architect, with VSBA’s continuing construction review throughout.