Caruso St John Architects

2011
Location: Lausanne, CH
Project Status: Competition, second prize

The CFF Locomotive Halls in Lausanne are characterised by the railway tracks, their associated buildings and infrastructures, and by a distance to the surrounding stone city. The general topography of the city, sloping southwards towards the lake, has been cut in order to create an absolutely flat ground, a territory for the trains. Our project aims to intensify this artificial level so that it becomes a specific spatial quality of the Pôle Museal et Culturel, an extensive public ground which holds a constellation of cultural buildings, all with their major facilities at ground floor level.

MCBA is a museum and not a kunsthalle. Its galleries need to accommodate varied and growing collections in a flexible way. Reconciling this with the open interior of the 1911 Hall is paradoxical. Having only art space within the existing Hall, all on ground level goes some of the way towards achieving a successful transformation of the industrial structure. The existing posts and open truss roof structure of the Hall has been replaced by a network of thin concrete walls which hold a delicate new timber roof structure. The walls make rooms with the requisite solidity and volume to be successful gallery spaces, however, door and window openings reveal a sense of their thinness and fragility in relation to the robust perimeter walls of the original structure. The new roof structure is deep and made up of very thin members. Its bottom cord supports a grid of fine timber boards which form a ceiling to the galleries. The trusses vary in depth, not in response to span, but in order to provide a range of scales within the suites of galleries. This deep ceiling will produce a soft and ethereal light, achieving a balance between the performative requirements of a gallery, and an atmosphere that engages with the idea of the industrial shed.