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Name   The Abraxas Spaces
Architects   BOFILL, RICARDO
Date   1982
Floor Plan   47000 SQ.M.

As the landmark building of the Ville Nouvelle of Marne-la Vallée, the complex consisting of “Le Palacio”, “Le Théâtre” and “L’Arc” needed to have a monumental and symbolic character in order to make them meeting place and point of reference for the new town. While its impact on the urban fabric is not decisive, Les Espaces d’Abraxas perfectly fulfils its role as an urban monument marking the beginning of the new town. Imbued with this representative character, the three buildings are laid out in a baroque space, more French in some areas, more Mediterranean in others, to constitute a great public space in which the monumentality provides the backdrop to the noblest area of the new residential development. By virtue of this, “Les Espaces d’Abraxas” has become the symbol and reference point for a large part of the Marne Valley.

The central square is bounded by the solid volume of the building transformed into a large urban theatre. Thanks to a system of heavy pre-casting, it was possible to use an extensive and complex architectural language. Different readings of the buildings, as a constant change in the scale and the references to Ledoux, Gaudí and Gabriel, among others, lead to the specific eclectic vocabulary of this project.

Different orders participate in the composition of the work; they articulate sudden changes in scale. Each architectural element – of prefabricated construction – is employed to the limit of disproportion, and the relation between elements is exalted by the inversion of spatial structures, producing a striking dynamic.

The first element, “Le Théâtre”, is a semicircle which encloses the square: the stage is established by the second, “L’Arc”, which forms a visual screen to decor the back of this theatre, which is the third element, “Le Palacio”.

“L’Arc”, with its modest dimensions (20 apartments over nine floors), was placed in the center of the interior space. We wanted to render functional a symbol considered non functional throughout its long historical use. Diverted from its usual symbolism, its final aspect will be that of a romantic, rather than a triumphal arc. For all, it is the focal point of the scheme.

“Le Théâtre” is a semi-circular building made up of framework which is regular in its horizontal and vertical expansion. The theatricality of this inhabited monument is due to its vertical arrangement: this comprises a series of reflective glass columns which change with the light and render the construction dynamic. A fluid theatricality offering an exploded view of the elements contrasts with a closed convex space, which is rigorous, yet changing. The open space, the theatre square, is sharply drawn. It gives the whole a magical dimension. The open space is enveloped by the circularity of the building, whose convexity gives a sensation of protective shelter. An impression of privacy flows from it, inverting the initial impression of monumentality.

“Le Théâtre” building includes 130 apartments and has an aspect of intentional privacy. Each vertical communication link (elevators and stairs), serves an entrance hall of two apartments (2, 3, 4, or 5 rooms) on every floor. These apartments face both inwards to “L’Arc” and outwards to Paris. The reflective glass columns are bay windows looking over the central square. They may be situated either in the living room or in the bedrooms.

The apartments are arranged in such a way that, disposed radially from an axis perpendicular to the support walls, are on one side, the kitchen, dining room and living room, and on the other side are the bedrooms and the bathrooms. The last floors form a balcony overhanging the inner square: apartments have private individual terraces overlooking the square.

The roofs of “Le Théâtre” and “L’Arc” are tree-planted, but inaccessible. The former can be seen from “Le Palacio d’Abraxas” (the third element of the composition). From the first floor on the side of the square, a Greek amphitheatre descends gradually like a stairway onto the stage.

“Le Palacio”, a high-density 18-storey buildings containing 441 apartments, rent-subsidized or for sale at low interest. The scheme consist of three buildings laid out in the form of a U, while in elevation there is a return to the X-pattern modulation of “Walden 7”, which here replaces the three-storey cubes with circulation on the intermediate level proposed in the unbuilt project for “La Petite Cathédrale”. The apartments, some of them duplex, have two, three or four rooms, but have the disadvantage of opening onto only one façade, with the necessarily conventional typology this implies.

Historical references are present throughout the work, both in the configuration of the whole and in the characteristics of certain details. Classical forms, very much rooted in French culture, are transformed and renewed by the way they are put to use. A careful analysis of the project will demonstrate, for example, how a composition “à la française” (1/4, 2/4, ¼ vertically), is interrupted by volumetric manipulation, and by a second historical element which contradicts the first: the frieze, inspired by the cornices of the buildings of Boullée, Ledoux, Lequeu.

Thus, a Baroque space is created, in the primitive sense of the word, which takes into account all spatial viewpoints, and is defined as the introduction of movement into built volume. Architecture creates a closed universe that becomes a powerful structure fo the community; the voids produce doors and windows of an urban scale that frame the views of the city; as in a picture.

The façades were built from prefabricated sections, cut according to their individual shapes and not in framed panels, so that the joints are invisible. These panels are stone, a mixture of sand, gray and white cement and oxides. The very light ochre and violet-blue shades obtained from these mixtures are extremely subtle. The aim of using this contemporary material, which harmonizes with the urban center, while remaining discrete, is to rediscover the qualities of stone and cultural references. It has its appearance and solidity as well as its aesthetic and cultural qualities.

The complex has been featured in numerous international films including the “Hunger Games” trilogy and “Brazil”.

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