Rice Francis Ritchie created the architectural and engineering design of the three grand bioclimatic façades of the new Cité of Science, Technology and Industry in Paris. The design was based upon the competition winning museum architecture proposal of Adrien Fainsilber. These three façades are key aspects of the building’s architecture. They act as intermediate zones between the outside and the inside of the building, filtering light and energy and acting as huge windows seen through from both the building and the park. The political concept of ‘transparency’ of the Mitterrand government became the basis of the architectural and structural concept and taken through into the technical resolution of the design. Secondary concerns were ideas of tension and the didactic rôle that the facades could perform as part of the Cité des Sciences.
The major innovation, initiated by the desire to achieve and to define a ‘material transparency’ was in the structural exploitation of glass to enhance the perception of transparency.
The stainless steel structure, measuring 32m x 32m x 8m is composed of vertical and horizontal tubes (300mm in diameter ) forming 8m x 8m bays, and at each 8m level, a horizontal wind bracing plane. The whole structure is pinned at its base and pinned horizontally at each intermediate level to circular concrete service towers at the rear. The glass assembly is an innovative design based upon a 2mx2m clear toughened glass carrier panel suspending three others, restrained every 2m vertically against wind action by a unique horizontal cable system. The RFR patented innovation is the glass fixing which incorporates a bearing. This bearing eliminates bending stresses within the glass sheet at its point of attachment.
This project revolutionised glazing world-wide.
Awarded The Most Beautiful Steel Structure (France) 1986