Cité du Design, Saint-Étienne
The Cité du Design in Saint-Étienne is a leading design center in France that includes exhibition galleries, meeting spaces and workshops, a conference facility, and a school of art and design. The center is also known as the main venue of the Saint-Etienne International Design Biennial.
History and architecture
The Cité du Design was inaugurated in 2009 in the former site of the arms factory Manufacture d’armes de Saint-Étienne, whose buildings date back to 1864.
In 2001, the factory closed; its 120,000-square-meter (1,290,000-square-foot) site has been thereafter reconverted into a cultural and research complex which includes – along with the Cité du Design and the École supérieure d’art et design – residential buildings, offices, a research center for optical sciences, and a school of digital media communication.
Encompassing a floor area of 17,250 square meters / 185,000 square feet, the complex of the City of Design comprises five buildings, three of which are restored historical buildings and two were built from scratch.
The project of the campus was conceived by architects Finn Geipel and Giulia Andi from Berlin-based practice LIN.
The complex includes two large exhibition halls (of 1,200 and 800 square meters – 13,000 and 8.600 square feet – respectively), an auditorium, a media library, a material archive, workshops, laboratories, classrooms, a shop, a restaurant, and a 32-meter-high observation tower.
The Cité du Design Saint-Étienne develops its mission aimed “ to demonstrate how design can contribute to the emergence of new dynamics within contemporary domains; social, economic, touristic or cultural ” through a wide program of temporary exhibitions, special events, seminars, conferences, meetings, guided tours, research projects, and creative workshops for children and teachers focused on contemporary art and design.
The featured events are based on an interdisciplinary approach and focus on various fields of design, including transport, social housing, urban space, graphics, furniture, lighting, textiles, tableware, packaging, work equipment, healthcare, and digital communication.
Saint-Etienne International Design Biennial
As mentioned, the center is also the venue of the Saint-Etienne International Design Biennial (French: Biennale Internationale Design Saint-Etienne), the most important exhibition and festival of design in France.
The Biennial takes place since 1998, usually from early March to early April, and comprises thematic exhibitions featuring the work of both French and international designers, special projects, workshops, conferences, and various events; in 2015, the Biennial registered over 200,000 visitors.
Cité du Design Saint-Étienne, aerial view; the building with the peculiar triangular-pattern roof, called “Platine”, houses the main exhibition halls, the auditorium, multi-purpose rooms, the libraries, and a restaurant; photo courtesy of Cité du Design
The “Platine” building from north; photo courtesy of Cité du Design
View of the center during the 2015 Saint-Etienne International Design Biennial; photo © Pierre Grasset
Exhibition “Mirages”, June 9, 2015 – March 27, 2016, installation view; photo @ Sonia Barcet
Exhibition “Tu nais, tuning, tu meurs”, Biennale Internationale Design Saint-Etienne 2015, installation view; photo © S. Binoux
One of the exhibition spaces conceived to promote the work of young designers; photo: © Pierre Grasset
The material library; photo © Sonia Barcet
View of “Design to Business”, a meeting event aimed to create connections between designers and industry; photo © F.Caterin
Cover image courtesy of Cité du Design Saint-Étienne
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