The use of Indaten® weathering steel makes a significant contribution to the distinctive appearance of Pôle Molière, an ambitious project which combines education, leisure, and family activities.
An initiative of the northern coastal city of Le Havre (France), Pôle Molière includes a pre-school, primary school, leisure centre, family centre, school canteen, multi-purpose hall, library, arts and crafts area, and multimedia centre. All of the different facilities are contained within a shared space which can be used for individual or group activities throughout the year.
After a competition organised by Le Havre City Council, two architectural studios – Atelier Bettinger Desplanques and Agence Coopérative Architecture Urbanisme (ACAU) – were awarded the contract to design the school. This is the nerve centre of the innovative and multi-functional project which is built on the site of former stables and located in the historic Saint-Nicolas industrial district of Le Havre.
The architects were faced with two challenges:
- Creating comprehensive modern facilities for educational and recreational use
- Maintaining the site’s strong historical character.
“Our aim was to retain and highlight the building housing the stables by preserving its original shape and two main facades,” explains Anne Bettinger.
The initial consideration was aesthetic. To keep the link with the historic district and the age-old industrial traditions of the Port of Le Havre, the architects suggested cladding the two facades of the building with cassette panels in Indaten®. The unique natural aesthetic appearance of this weathering steel complements the existing brickwork perfectly, creating a well-balanced, coherent, and harmonious whole.
“This historic heritage is important to the city and is enhanced by the rugged decorative qualities of Indaten® weathering steel,” adds Anne Bettinger. “The client just loved the strong visual impact it made. The Indaten® panels were black when they were first installed on the facade but they soon oxidised and developed an attractive rust-brown patina. It only took a few weeks to achieve very satisfactory colouration in the harsh marine environment of Le Havre.”
The advantage of environmental oxidation is that no painting or chemical treatment is needed. Once the patina has stabilised, it naturally protects the steel from subsequent corrosion, guaranteeing that the facade will have a long life.
“Besides their excellent durability, Indaten® cassette panels do not require any special treatment or maintenance. For a collective project like Pôle Molière, this is a significant advantage, both practically and financially,” maintains Anne Bettinger.
To support their choice of Indaten®, the architects worked with ArcelorMittal Construction France from the outset to define the construction methods to be used.
“During the preparatory phase, there was a great deal of collaboration with SMAC, the company that was to fit the Indaten® cassette panels. The calculations needed to ensure the panels fitted both as cladding on a mixed wood and metal frame and as a roof covering, were carefully worked out and a full-scale prototype was built to validate them,” explains Anne Bettinger.
Pôle Molière is now an iconic feature of the cityscape of Le Havre. The centre welcomes more than 370 children and many families every day.
Indaten® is a structural steel which is highly resistant to atmospheric corrosion. It forms a protective patina that changes depending on the local environmental conditions.
Indaten® is ideal for the exteriors, facades, and the structural elements of buildings and bridges as it is:
Coques MD panels were specially developed by ArcelorMittal Construction France for use with Indaten® weathering steel. The geometry of the cassette panels has been adapted to prevent water retention and ensure that the back is fully ventilated.
The panels slide into specially developed vertical rails with metal brackets. This prevents contact between different materials and eliminates the risk of staining.