In eastern France, a former distillery becomes a hub for the arts
Schiltigheim, France – In the 19th century, much of Schiltigheim revolved around the business of alcohol — it was full of industrial distilleries and brewers. As globalisation slowly corroded the local industry in the past 30 years, many buildings still stand today, a series of empty shelves left behind as a testimony of the buzz that once was.
That’s why the municipality decided to breathe new life into a former distillery: via Dominique Coulon & Associés, it is now a mixed-use creative building. In its 700 sq-m, Les Halles du Scilt now includes an exhibition area for young artists and a space for drama performances, a design workshop, a market and a place for shopkeepers.
Many buildings still stand today, a series of empty shelves left behind as a testimony of the buzz that once was
The office approached the rehabilitation project by aiming to preserve its heritage and architectural integrity, but at the same time reflecting the spirit of its new tenants. ‘We made sure to affirm its contemporary dimension, but our work also highlights the constructional and aesthetic qualities of the existing buildings on the site,’ explained Coulon. That dual life is reflected on the interlacing old-and-new elements of the façade, in the transparency of the bay windows that contrast with the opacity of the wood-framed houses, in the angular concrete volume that heads upwards and outwards as the exhibition area, made from the stones of the past, seems to extend itself further indoors.
Schitigheim is the third largest town in the Bas-Rhin department in eastern France, and a part of the Strasbourg metropolitan region. As Paris has been continuously reevaluating the use of its space for an underserved population — the local government has built 100,000 units of social housing in the last 10 years and plans to hit 30 per cent of the total market by 2030 —, project such as this one speak of France’s willingness to rebuild and renew the usable urban landscape to adapt to the changing social needs of its inhabitants.