With the design of the Museum & Biodiversity Research Center in Beautour, by Nantes-based Guinée Potin architects, we start a coverage cycle dedicated to new projects for biodiversity museums and research centres.
The current trend, especially in central and northern Europe, shows innovative approaches to the design of spaces focused on the preservation of landscapes, deemed highly valuable for environmental and historical reasons.
This is particularly clear in projects for visitors’ centres and visitable research facilities connected to strongly characterized areas and regions. Here architects have to deal, along with functional or aesthetic requirements, also with particular local construction techniques as well as with complex relationships between building, museum’s mission and surrounding environment, since these elements must be all considered as fundamental parts of the whole design concept.
Beautour | Museum & Biodiversity research center
The Museum & Biodiversity Centre in Beautour is an institution focused on biodiversity located in the Pays de la Loire, not far from the Atlantic coast of France. The Centre lies where once the famous naturalist Georges Durand had a mansion, that still exists. During his life, Durand collected nearly 5,000 birds, 150,000 butterflies and insects, and two herbaria with 4,500 plants, eventually he donated the collection to the Musée National d’Histoire naturelle in Paris. After Durand’s death in 1964, his mansion was abandoned and only in 2009 the regional government started a project to promote and regenerate the site, in June 2013 the Beautour, centre régional de découverte de la biodiversité , opened to the public. The idea was to create a learning and research centre focused on biodiversity and environment conservation.
The project envisaged both a landscape redesign on an area of 8 hectares and the realization of a new building, in addition to the old mansion of Durand. The landscape planning, carried out by the practice Guillaume Sevin Paysages, envisaged both the realisation of new elements and the conservation of plots already present on site. Thematic gardens, ponds, marshes, trails, meadows, woods and wild gardens create a complex and diverse set for biodiversity carefully balanced between integral preservation and stronger interventions. The new building design by Guinée*Potin architectes was also conducted in accordance with the global regeneration and the biodiversity fostering constraints.
The architectural project
The requirements for the design of the new extension were thus quite demanding.
By first, the new 1,400 square metres building had to cope with the existing Durand’s mansion without visually overwhelming it. To accomplish to such aim, Guinée*Potin created a low-rise construction which seems flowing into the site and embracing the old house.
Furthermore the extension had to be in complete accordance with the surrounding environment and with the centre’s mission. Thus the architects conceived what they define a « a piece of built landscape »
The sinuous forms of the building are decisively marked by its thatched skin, so that a contemporary use of a traditional local technique provides the centre with a strong identity; since it is made with a natural material, the roof covering will transform over time, shifting its colours toward tones of grey with ageing and adapting its appearance to seasonal changes.
The building is raised over the ground on thin pillars, both to reduce the impact of the foundation works and to preserve and unveil the natural elements lying below and around it. The structure is made of timber framework and adopted dry construction methods. The addition also strongly relies on passive solar energy techniques and is carefully oriented on a north-south axis also for such purpose. Rainwater collecting, waste-water phytodepuration and bio-mass heating solutions have also been widely adopted.