Russian Spiritual and Cultural Center in Paris. Quai Branly

This project won an international architectural competition in France, followed up by some scandals and politics. 

Architects: Misha Krymov, Aleksei Goriainov,  Manuel Nunez-Yanovsky

Total Area: 4500 sq.m.

Project: 2011


Explanatory note

1. Urban planning:
The Project is located at the intersection of Quai Branli and Av. Rapp, which form the Place de la Résistance and the Alma Bridge. The southern facade of the complex faces Universite street (Université), the corner building will be called Université building. On the quay Branly directly adjacent to the projected complex is the historic building of the Palais Alma. Next to the palace is the world-famous modern museum building (architect J. Nouvelle), with a glass wall on the waterfront, which screens off the garden and the modernist multicolored volume of the museum. Thus, the palace building is included in a dialogue between two modern complexes framing it from two sides.

2. Architecture.
2.1. general points:
The main architectural theme of the complex is the unification of traditional temple architecture and modern cultural complex. The unifying element is the transparent veil, coming down from the domes of the temple, covering the garden and wrapping the corner of the reconstructed University building. As in traditional Christian temple buildings, the entire area around the temple is a garden with a glass fence around the perimeter. This makes the entire structure open to views, sun and air, and community.
2.2 Temple:
In the center of the site, in the center of the garden, behind the glass media facade facing the waterfront and Avenue Rapp is the volume of the Orthodox Church. The project involves the construction of a temple in the tradition of the 14th and 16th centuries, with a pure and simple volume, which will be particularly distinctive against the background of the side facade of the Alma Palace. The temple is oriented strictly to the east, with a deviation of within 5 degrees. The temple is five-domed, three-nave with lateral borders. The main volume of the temple corresponds to the traditional elongated proportions, with the total area in the interior – about 400 square meters due to the expanded lower part. It is proposed to organize an underground, small single-domed temple, a crypt .
2.3. garden:
The main species of the new garden in Paris is the “Troitskaya green” traditional for Russia – birch, spruce, maple, linden, mountain ash. This corresponds to the fact that the temple, located in the garden, is dedicated to the Blessed Trinity. In the garden, behind the white stone wall of the corner overlooking the Alma Bridge, there is a small pond with a spring. A new alley runs through the entire site. The part of the University building bordering the garden has been partially demolished to form a system of garden terraces descending from the landscaped roof directly into the garden. This landscaped cascade with small, picturesque staircases creates a continuous green ribbon starting from the embankment and rising directly to the roof of the building, where the low bell tower is located.
2.4 The multifunctional University building:
There is no separate cultural center building in the project-the whole complex under the veil is a Spiritual and Cultural Orthodox Center in Paris. The borders of this cultural center are the glass media facades facing the waterfront and Avenue Rapp and the facades of the corner building. All the functional areas including the library, bookstore, archive, conference room, exhibition hall, etc. are united in the corner building ” University “, which is being redeveloped. This integration of all the mundane, residential, office, seminary and congregational functions in one building gives flexibility to the use of these areas in the future and makes it possible to make the best possible use of them today. With this building the whole complex grows out of the historic fabric of the city of Paris and becomes a new urban garden.
2.5 The glass walled garden:
The glass garden wall is a media facade on which static and dynamic images, announcements of cultural center events, exhibitions, religious festivals, images of icons, etc., can be projected. This linear structure is the largest showcase of Russian culture in the West.

3. Transport.
The main pedestrian entrances to the site are provided along the new city avenue from the waterfront and University Street. An additional entrance from Rapp Avenue may be used during public events and holidays. Car access to the complex and to the 20 car parking spaces is provided from Université St., through two pairs of gates forming a security lock. The solemn processions can drive up to the temple along a new walkway directly from the waterfront. Entering the complex from the waterfront, the visitor enters the garden, then the temple and even further to the multipurpose center, rising to the south along the terraces. After walking forward along the picturesque alley along the historical facade of the palace, the visitor comes to the temple.

4. Construction.
French engineering companies are among the leaders in the construction of underground structures with high groundwater. From the constructive point of view it is supposed to build a concrete watertight bowl on this site. The temple intends to clad this bowl from the inside with full-size white stone blocks.

4.1 Temple:
The five-cupola, three-nave traditional temple is composed of massive blocks of white limestone. The outer walls are one meter thick. Inside the temple, the vaults are supported by four massive stone round columns. The constructive scheme is traditional and is based on the similar temples of the 14-16th centuries. The temple is expected to be built in accordance with the traditions of the 14-16th centuries from large blocks of white limestone brought specially for this from Russia. The interior is supposed to have traditional paintings in the style of A. Rublev.

4.2 Garden :
The garden is divided into three parts: the lower one around the temple, the terraced one in the partially demolished building and the upper one organized on the roof of the “University” building. All three gardens are irrigated with rainwater collected in cisterns . All are illuminated and sounded with a modular installation, which allows partial or full illumination and sounding.

4.3. multi-functional center:
The existing building on the corner of University Street and Rapp Avenue is preserved, with partial use of the structural system and existing facades. In the right wing the building is partially dismantled in order to create terraces. On the roof and the terraces, a 0.3 to 1 meter thick layer of soil for trees and shrubs is planned. The material for the new facade of the corner building is stone blocks from the demolished neighboring Meteo France building.

4.4 The fence:
The fencing of the complex is a glass wall of two panes of glass vertically – 8 meters high. The entire structure is supported by glass buttresses located on the inner side of the fence.

4.5 The cover:
The structural rhombic grid of the canopy is supported by the temple and the four arboreal columns located in the garden. In the twisting area the structure is reinforced by inner cables. On the corner building the cover turns into a grid of the second facade, but without the glass. The basic element of the structure is a rhombus, the approximate size of the edges of the rhombus is 5*30 cm in height. There are three basic materials used: the white Russian stone of the temple, symbolizing the Russian tradition; the golden stone of the corner building in Paris; the wraparound glass and the fencing glass, symbolizing openness and protection at the same time.

4.6. building materials:
There are 3 main materials used in the project: white Russian stone for the temple. Parisian golden stone for the “University” building. Glass for the cover and for the garden fence.

5. Sustainability.
The main technological know-how proposed by the French engineers is the creation of a system of self-washing roofs and the subsequent use of this water to heat the building. This will help to reduce the cost of energy for the functioning of the cultural center. Also on the second façade grid is the installation of a significant number of photovoltaic and thermal panels, converting sunlight into heat and electricity. In the long term, the predominance of natural materials in the construction of the complex (stone, glass) and the presence of greenery throughout the site will have a beneficial effect on the operation of the complex and its impact on the neighborhood and district environment.