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Banque de France Paris La Courneuve

La Courneuve, France

Competition won in 2014

Program: Major refurbishment of two buildings of the former Babcock Wilcox steel factory (1923 and 1987) and conversion into tertiary buildings (offices, service area open to the public and staff cafeteria) and construction of a highly secured fiduciary building.
Assignement: Architecture, city planning, interior design
Location: La Courneuve, France
Built area: 23 500 m²
Tertiary built area (offices): 6.500 m², 4 levels above ground floor (capacity : 450 approx.)
Fiduciary built area (safe): 17.000 m²

Client: Banque de France
Contractor: Jean-Paul Viguier et Associés
Appointed contractor, engineering and process: Artelia
Engineering firms: Axeflow (Process), Alternative (Acoustics)
Landscape designers: Agence Babylone
Interior designers: Majorelle (space planning)
Construction firms: Léon Grosse (general construction firm), CBC (structural works), Ineo (CFO and CFA), Spie (plumbing), Jean Lefebvre (gardens and green spaces)
Suppliers: Moeding (extruded ceramic)
Certifications: NF HQE for tertiary buildings by Certivéa + «Sustainable logistic platform» 3* by Afilog

The new site of the Banque de France is the second biggest cash handling facility in Europe. It will handle 25% of the national reserves.

The Paris-La Courneuve center of the Banque de France (Central Bank) rises on the 4.5 ha wasteland of the former Babcock steel factory along the A86 motorway. This project is a reflection of the challenge that is the “Grand Paris” and the major changes happening north of the French capital, of which the Olympic Games in 2024 will be a part. The opening of the Banque de France is the sign of a renewal both for the industrial site and the entire area, the soon to open «Fabriques des Cultures» bringing an added cultural value to the area while preserving its industrial past.
This new facility is a major step in the Banque de France’s plan to rethink its real estate and modernize its equipment with the creation of an industrial site compatible with its current objectives.

So as to handle soon after opening over 1 billion banknotes (25% of the national reserves), this project involves a specific material and technological infrastructure suited for highly secured and automated facilities.
The nerve center of this architectural plan is a safe composed of three juxtaposed cubic volumes.
Its main function is the high-speed automated control of banknotes. It is designed to automatically destroy worn-out banknotes and put aside the ones deemed suspicious. Its secondary function is the storage of the banknotes in the 26-meter high safe.
Even though the building is supposed to be perfectly sealed, the emphasis on natural light is at the heart of the project. The white ceramic facade presents an alternated hollow pattern that softens the building’s defensive appearance and creates a vibration depending on the amount of sunlight. This attachment to natural light is also demonstrated inside the building where a triangular void was turned into a planted patio open to the staff.

At the entrance of the complex, two former Babcock buildings, dating back to 1923 for the brick one and 1987 for the concrete one, face the “safe”. These two units have been restored and organically connected to one another to be reborn as a unified office building that will be open to the public.
The general plan creates a dialogue between each entity of the site but also with the entire area. It questions the concept of the architectural openness of a site of which the primary function is to be fully sealed. The project is also a reflection of one of the main concerns of the practice: the relation between heritage and contemporary architecture.


Agency credits

Partner/Leading architect: Francesco Zaccaro
Operation architect: Fiona Dunlop, Dionisio Rocha
Project team:  Christophe Charon, Beat Meier, Daniele Molinari, Aboubacar Mahaman Noury, Claire Moreau 
Interior designers: Justine Duhautois, Ninni Byrelid, Clémence de Dreuzy, Julia Le Guilloux, Sophie Pélisset 
Computer generated images : Benoit Paterlini, Giovanni Barbagallo, Amélie Bellaud