Villa Arson, Building 5

Villa Arson

Building 5 now houses the studios of the students of the art school. The last step of the architectural ensemble, it continues building 4 on a lower level and further south. It initially housed stage design workshops for the cinema, the theater, television, studios for two and three dimensional decoration, studios for building models, and labs for photography and film. Its terraces include a maze that looks like an antique ruin and a pyramid that recalls Egyptian mastabas.

Elevation without the landscaping

These elevations show perfectly the horizontal deployment of the architecture, which follows the slope in the same way as the original terraced gardens. « I wanted to make the constructions disappear in the greenery, so I decided to spread them out like a lizard in the sun.” (Michel Marot).

Grading work and foundations of building 5.
The old garden has disappeared but the architect retained a terraced organization for the various surfaces. The buildings will be deployed horizontally, raising the old terraces several meters for the studios.

Building 5 takes up the southern end of the domain of the Villa Arson, it is the lowest level of the architectural ensemble.
On this picture we can see that the dimensions of the building are defined by the topography of the slope and the pre-existing greenery.

Maze at the entrance of the terrace of building 5 and Mastaba seen from the terraces of building 4

Construction of the ceilings, pillars and concrete grid before the installation of the coffers typical of the place.

The panels were made by hand on the floor in a wooden form, then they were raised and placed onto the structure.

In the foreground the concrete slab of the terrace of building 5 is being poured. Behind one can see the work site for the elements of the maze, and an interior wall of building 4 with the counter relief indicating the level of the future terraces.
In the back the old Villa is being renovated.
The picture is taken from the top of the mastaba.

The terrace is being waterproofed before tiling.
The cubic shapes in the foreground are skylights that each have a blade in the middle to diffuse the light. Diamond shaped skylights called “pyramidions” will be installed on top.

In the background the south facade of building 4 evokes a fortress with its massive aspect and its crenelated top.
This feeling is also present on the east and west facades of the domain. The windows are sheltered in vertical recesses, testifying to the special care with which Michel Marot dealt with mastering light, both for composing the volumes and making the place habitable.

Maze and south facade of building 4 seen from the terrace of building 5

Beginning of the setting of the Veronico tiles on the terrace of building 5.

Laying Veronico tiles, terrace of building 5

Finished Veronico tiling on the terrace of building 5.

In the foreground a series of rough concrete volumes with ribbed motifs create a maze. The horizontal and rectangular blades seen on top diffuse the light from the skylights encased within each volume.
In the background an open air pyramidal construction, directly inspired by Egyptian mastabas, allows for the passage of light on the level below.
At the end, the external walls of the terrace include windows that are inspired by industrial sawtooth roofs and also provide light for the level below.

There are three natural lighting systems in this space: frontal vertical lighting on the façade, horizontal skylights placed inside shapes that evoke industrial sawtooth roofs, skylights in the ceiling topped by transparent pyramids.
Here the skylights are situated inside the maze on the terrace of building 5.

Referred to as the “cinema set”, this space was originally destined for the stage set studios for film, theater and television, and is situated at the southern end of the domain. It is 5 meters high. It currently houses the studios of the first year students.

The inside of the mastaba shaped volume on the terrace of building 5 is open air. It creates a well of light, on the left of the picture, around which the patio studio on the level below is organized.

The studio called Patio at the south of building 5, it's a free studio for the students.

In the foreground, one of the volumes of the maze on the terrace of building 5. In the background the south facade of building 4 and the stairway leading to the central street.
The panels of stones have not all been mortared yet. One can observe the difference in appearance due to their on site handmade fabrication, and the various calibers of the available stones.

Currently a studio for the third year students, the space on the left used to be a wood workshop, and the space on the right was used for making three-dimensional sets and models.
The light in the ceiling comes from the pyramid shaped skylights encased in the ruin-like maze built on the terrace.

It was previously a studio for two dimensional sets, with adjustable partitions. It is situated below the terrace of building 5. It is currently used as one of the studios for the second year students.

The studio called Patio at the south of building 5, it's a free studio for the students.

On the left, over the sloping street, a footbridge allows for the passage between two terraces. There is an openwork railing at the end.
This detail shows how Michel Marot constantly played with the interpenetration of volumes and voids and how he mastered light.
The interlinking of textures is typical of the rest of the domain: stones, rough concrete, Veronico tiles and marble tiles on the floor, concrete or wrought iron railings that give rhythm to the proportions, mahogany windows and doors. These combinations always stimulate observation.

Building 5, south – east façades, square around which various studios are distributed.

Situated at the south end of the domain, this stairway runs along the east side of building 5 and corresponds to the end of the pathway which leads to the lowest part of the Villa Arson.
It allows for returning to the alley of cypresses, which runs along the entire building on the west side and goes back up the hill to the entrance garden. Thus it is possible to walk around the entire property.

In numerous spaces the upper levels are overhanging. This makes the fortress-like architecture look lighter, it increases the floor area and creates circulation spaces sheltered from the rain and sun.

In the foreground is the stairway which continues the eastern pathway running along building 5. The arrangement of the textures and volumes corresponds to the themes of the entire architecture: subtle arrangement of the volumes, pointillism of the stone walls, smooth or rough concrete, constant presence of greenery.

This passageway is a modern adaptation of the sloping stone streets of Provençal villages.

The students posing in the photograph give an indication of the scale.
On top of the complex arrangement of the volumes, the labyrinth-like character of the architecture comes from the fact that there are almost always several ways of accessing one same spot.

Street crossing building 5 from east to west. This passageway is a modern adaptation of the sloping stone streets of Provençal villages.

In the foreground the parapet at the edge of the terraces includes windows which provide daylight for the studios below.
The passage going down is the continuation on the west side of the central street which traverses building 4 higher up.

A series of ribbed, rough concrete volumes create a maze inside which is the access to the lower terrace.

Terraces of building 5 and south façade of building 4

The “pyramidions” at the bottom of the ribbed concrete structures give light to the lower level. The horizontal rectangular blades receive and reflect the light from the south.

The lighting provided by the coffers in the ceiling mixes natural and artificial light.
The larger coffers are wells of light encased inside the maze built on the terrace above.
The smaller ones are equipped with opaque white glass globes and standard light bulbs.

The natural light coming through the larger coffers is diffused by a vertical blade. One can distinguish the globes inside the smaller coffers which shed an artificial light.

The opaque white glass globes inside the alveoli. They were later taken down and replaced by banks of neon lights.

The end of the domain, with buildings 4 and 5 surrounded by greenery.
One can see the end of the alley of cypresses and the passage that prolongs it where three neoclassical statues have been placed inside niches.
The ensemble looks like a fortress paradoxically trying to be discreet.

The leaves at the top of the trees mingle with the motifs of the stones. “The stones had to become similar to the pointillism of the leaves, because we had to make the façades disappear… All this was the result of my research on skin and color. […] The promontory of the Villa Arson was a green mass that had to be preserved from the uncontrolled urban densification. The material of the walls then had to be blurred into that of the leaves. By decorating it with tumbled stones from the Var, the idea was also to remain faithful to materials from the area, to its mineral history, and to create a place where architecture would not impinge upon the urban space. I would have preferred somewhat less gray stones but I must say that they have warmed up with the dust of time” (Michel Marot).

Situated between the scenography and the sculpture studios, a stairway prolongs the semi-covered street that goes from building 4 to the terraces of building 5.

Credits: Story

Jean-Pierre Simon

In charge of the project
Cédric Moris Kelly

Legal issues
Alain Avena

Under the guidance of Patrick Aubouin

Editorial staff
Patrick Aubouin
Cédric Moris Kelly

Claire Bernstein

Data entry in Google Cultural Institute interface
Cédric Moris Kelly

Digitalization of spaces by Google Street View team was made possible thanks to the mobilization of Villa Arson technical teams:

Reception, monitoring and maintenance
Joël Jauny

Reception, monitoring & accommodation
Isabelle Clausse
Dave Dhurmajee
Marlène Lebrusq
Jean-Pierre Vitry

Technical / Buildings staff
Jean-Paul Carpentier
Gérard Maria
Pascal Rigaux
Michel Serve

Patrice Lorho
Pascal Pujol
Kévin Serviole

Thanks to Michel Marot for the graceful authorization to use the archives collection Marot Tremblot Architecture (MTA)

With the support of the French Ministry of Culture and Communication and the Google Street View and Google Cultural Institute teams

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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