PARIS – The Parisian suburb of Marly-le-Roi once hosted several notable feats of ingenuity, each possessing a common end of absurd luxury. The Château de Marly was Louis XIV’s retreat from nearby Château de Versailles. The ‘Machine de Marly’, regarded as the most advanced hydraulic system of the seventeenth century, served only to supply Versailles’ vast, ornate fountain system.

A recent development in the area by local practice Ameller, Dubois et Associés stands more modest in purpose and appearance, though no less clever in design. The municipal council commissioned the firm to construct a market hall with courtyard and car park – as well as a social housing complex yet to be realised. The hall takes a basic square plan and clean-edged volume. Wood sets a humble tone for the façade ­– broken into sunshades along the east and west walls, minimalistically framing the north and south. Arboreal frosting covers an imposing full-length window facing out to the patio. Quilted, steel thresholds, invoking the surfaces of the stalls within, provide an abrupt yet inviting contrast on each side.

The structure’s most unusual characteristic, however, is a roof that appears to have been peeled-up at alternating corners in rectangular intervals. Mossy vegetation along its surface adds to this break in geometric monotony, softening its sharp gestures and contributing less disruptively to the overhead view from the hill behind. More than suggesting sustainability, the growth creates both a natural thermal system and gutter for rainwater.

The roof feature also provides additional entry points for natural light – which is, like the exterior shape, delicately modulated on the interior from otherwise scattered rays. Smooth, striated wood covers the hall’s ceiling and curves down from each opening. As an acoustic system, the cladding provides vents for excess ambient noise. Hence, beyond a pleasant alternative to standard warehouse bracketing and a unifying expression with the façade, it serves as a natural, two-way channel: light enters, sound escapes.

A forecourt offers additional space for stalls. Covered parking space sits below ground level of the entire court and offers a non-invasive, sheltered passage from the housing complex to the hall.

Photos Guillaume Grasset
Figures courtesy of Ameller, Dubois et Associés