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Author(s): Atelier Martel

Specialised home for epileptics

The site is an uncultivated area between pasture and business park in the semi-urban fringe that is opening up at the exit to the small town of Dommartin-lès-Toul. It slopes gently in front of the parking area for the former American hospital and opens onto a rolling panorama of the Moselle valley.

Despite its limited urban qualities, the “business park”, an extension of the historic town, is the ordinary work site of contemporary architects. The Specialised Home is a project that feeds off of the landscape and articulates a strong and poetic response. It draws on the imagination of these large, simple, autonomous objects: the way in which one reaches them – by car, the economy of architectural operations, the compactness of the subjects that respond to the landscapes. The challenge of this peri-urban project lies in its ability to recover the vocabulary of the splintered town to make it a warm, kindly, and permanent subject.

The initiative to construct a Specialised Home for Epileptics was taken by an association for those suffering from the disease. Therefore, a participatory working method was established, bringing together doctors, patients, architects, and the artist, Mayanna von Ledebur. The intersection of experiences that resulted form this collective work heavily influenced the project: choice of the lot, materials, reasoning for the plan, creation of a protective and open world. The social commitment behind the project helped establish a network of highly varied skills and exploit a human potential that really makes a difference to a building created with limited resources.

Economic constraints pushed the studio to design a working method that focused on the essential. Siting a building on street level, opening the volume with four large patios, softening raw concrete with a curved matrix, and covering the walls with coloured wool tapestries. These few decisions were sufficient to blur the boundaries between worlds and summon a bevy of images that add complexity to the project world: it is a warehouse, but also a cloister, house, public space, school, play area, and garden.

The project defends a production process based on sharing experiences to redirect ordinary forms into special places. It is an optimistic and engaged discipline that re-appropriates roadside vernacular architecture to produce places in which one feels well.

Function : Home house specializing in epilepsy