July 8, 2011
by Canadian Architect
OMA has won the competition to design the new Parc des Expositions (PEX) in the innovation zone of Toulouse, southern France. PEX is conceived as a new gateway to the city and will host exhibitions, conferences, and concerts. The 338,0000-square-metre project is designed to be a compact mini-city – an antidote to the sprawl of a standard exposition park, and a means to preserve the surrounding French countryside.
Surpassing three submissions by internationally renowned competitors, the project, led by OMA’s director of French projects Clément Blanchet, will be completed by 2016. Blanchet commented: “This project is not only about architecture, but rather infrastructure. It’s a condenser for diversity, a machine that can promote an infinite number of possibilities.”
Rather than spreading across the entire available site – a patchwork of open fields and sporadic developments – OMA chose to designate a strip of 2.8 kilometres long and 320 metre wide, crossed by the RD902 highway. The strip will act as a zone for future developments and link the river Garonne at one extreme and the Airbus A380 factory on the other. In this strip, PEX is a 660-metre-long, 24-metre-high structure, both monumental in its horizontal scale and subtle in its overall impact.
PEX consists of three parallel bands: the multi-function Event Hall, with a massive doorway allowing performances to spread outdoors; a 40,000-square-metre column-free Exhibition Hall; and, in the middle band, a 160,000-square-metre parking silo. Instead of banishing parking underground or pushing it to the periphery of the site, parking ramps are visible through glass partitions from inside the halls. The massive structure of PEX is a simple and flexible three-dimensional grid, providing a plug-in system for exhibitors and facilities.
In 2010, OMA also won the competition for a major new library, the Bibliothèque Multimédia à Vocation Régionale (BMVR), in Caen, France. The project will be OMA’s first public building in France.
OMA is a leading international partnership practicing architecture, urbanism, and cultural analysis. Their buildings and master plans around the world insist on intelligent forms while inventing new possibilities for content and everyday use. OMA is led by seven partners – Rem Koolhaas, Ellen van Loon, Reinier de Graaf, Shohei Shigematsu, Iyad Alsaka, David Gianotten and Managing Partner, Victor van der Chijs – and sustains an international practice with offices in Rotterdam, New York, Beijing and Hong Kong, employing a staff of around 275.
The counterpart to OMA’s architectural practice is AMO, a design and research studio. While OMA remains dedicated to the realization of buildings and master plans, AMO operates in areas beyond the traditional boundaries of architecture, including media, politics, sociology, technology, fashion, curating, publishing, product design, branding, arts consultancy and graphic design.
aerial view of convention centre master plan