Métafort Multimedia Research Center

Aubervillers, France


Métafort represents a new kind of utopia whose originality lies in the opportunity to compare and link 'multimedia culture' with more traditional forms of artistic expression, while considering the social impact of setting up the institution in an outer urban area. The institution will assume the role of producer: it will offer advice and expertise, project engineering and technical facilities to players wishing to collaborate and combine their experiments. Projects will be generated by proposals rather than commissioned.


Métafort is a socio-cultural multimedia research center established in the old Fort d’Aubervilliers on the northern fringe of Paris. Consisting of a monospace surrounded by six satellites, the main structure is comprised of a raised platform sheltered by an enveloping skin with variable permeability.

Fixed parts (conference rooms, control room) and flexible components (laboratories, performing and production studios) are articulated on the platform. The satellites function as footbridges projecting into their immediate surroundings – both literally and symbolically – housing the media library, guest artist residences, training labs, a think-tank "seed" center, parking silo, and a theatre.


Enveloped under one roof, the village presents the image of a uniform single entity. The architectural space is differentiated by a gradation between two poles – a 'fluid' architectural system in the center (tall spaces, open lines of sight, sparse areas) giving way to a 'water tight' system on the edges (small spaces, cubicles, narrow walkways). The connection between the area of distribution and intimate space is made according to the "center outline area principle", or the "remoteness/density" principle as regards the quality of its interstices.


The main building rests on a single slab raised on pilotis, a base plate which acts as the fixed support for Métafort while protecting the ground-level nerve center: a concentration of support systems incorporating delivery points, technical equipment rooms and additional spaces that function as the building’s lifeline. The upper face of the plate provides for various types of spaces, incorporating stable elements like the Forum and Exchange center while allowing for variable and hanging configurations of modular spaces which can be adjusted in size and volume to adapt to different projects – for example the expression and research centers (laboratories and production studios) – separated by spaces referencing village streets and public squares.


The flexible roof ensures protection while distributing light throughout building areas via an arbitrary layout of glazed roof panels. The roof also allows the volume to become an interclimatic space.


The degree of sophistication of the methods of construction is proportionate to the life span of each element: content (the village) is achieved using "makeshift" methods; the adaptable framework (envelope) using light assembly techniques; the fixed framework (platform) using heavy techniques.
The particulars of the mechanical assembly methods used for all construction elements allow for future dismantling of each component and therefore short-term adaptations and transformations as well as long-term recycling.
A similar structure implemented previously at the École National d'Art Décoratif in Limoges, completed in 1993/94, provides the experience and a point of departure for the design of the Métafort monospace.

Aerial View

View over Aubervilliers fort under a thick layer of greenery. It is separated from the Aubervilliers and Pantin suburbs by a network of traffic lanes and allotments.

Project Data

Program: Métafort is a socio-cultural multimedia research center set up in the old Fort d'Aubervilliers on the northern fringe of Paris.

Client: Ministry of Culture, City of Aubervilliers

Status: 1996-1998 Competition 1st prize, Research 1995

Location: Aubervilliers, Seine-Saint-Denis, France

Cost: 21 M€ (value 1995)

Surface: 19,825 m²



Architecture: LABFAC, Finn Geipel, Nicolas Michelin, Michel Deplace and Bernd Hoge (project leaders) with Nicholas Boudier, Cyril Trétout, Simone Wyss, Karine Labbay and Claudia von Bogen, Paris; Structural Engineer: Werner Sobek, Stuttgart; Concrete Engineer: Pierre Bisotto; Fluids engineer and lighting: Andy Sedgwick, Ove Arup, London; Text: Jean Pierre Ceton; Philosophy: Joseph Hanimann; Model Construction: Michel Goudin, Paris

 AMF-01-ESS-LIN-Internal view of Métafort
Image 1/7 AMF-01-ESS-LIN-Internal view of Métafort
Image 2/7 AMF-02-ESS-LIN-Morphology
Image 3/7 AMF-03-ESS-LIN-Plan
AMF-04-ESS-LIN-Axonomentric view of multiple layers
Image 4/7 AMF-04-ESS-LIN-Axonomentric view of multiple layers
AMF-05-ESS-LIN-Development of envelope
Image 5/7 AMF-05-ESS-LIN-Development of envelope
AMF-06-ESS-LIN-Installation of moveable pillars
Image 6/7 AMF-06-ESS-LIN-Installation of moveable pillars
Aerial View
AMF-07-ESS-LIN-Aerial view
Image 7/7 AMF-07-ESS-LIN-Aerial view
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