Interview with Emmanuel Combarel, architect of the National Illustration Center Tomi Ungerer


A great tribute to the artist and illustrator Tomi Ungerer, the Centre National de l'Illustration has opened its doors in the heart of the city of Strasbourg in Eastern France. In an exceptional architectural environment, Emmanuel Combarel and Dominique Marrec designed a remarkable sinuous footpath using Ductal®. Following completion of the bus station at Thiais, the ECDM agency again used Ductal®, this time for a visitors' footpath with the feel of a flying carpet that marks its cultural singularity.


What was your first aim for this cultural project?

The collection is on display in the villa Greiner, a late 19th century residence situated in the German quarter of Strasbourg. The main challenge was to design suitable access for people with restricted mobility without emphasizing any discriminatory aspect. We thought about creating a gently sloping pathway in the small garden, designed to lead to the exhibition rooms. We wanted to make the pathway an introduction with a sinuous and amusing approach that enabled all visitors, whoever they may be, to have easy and user friendly access to the building as if on a flying carpet. Which explains all the difficulties the project presented us with! It was therefore essential to go for a material that was no more than 2 cm thick overall and which could be easily modulated given the ramp's geometric complexity. Ductal® stood out. Mechanical resistance, finesse, specific elements... everything fulfilled our goals.


Mechanical resistance, finesse, specific elements... everything fulfilled our goals.

Emmanuel Combarel

What were the constraints in relation to its use and in the end what did Ductal® bring to the museum's project?

At the start the biggest problem was to draw-up 3D sections in the shape of a helix to create the alternating curves. But there were other constraints, such as the 4% limit for a wheelchair ramp and 2% for the slants. The 250 m2 gardens were therefore used to the maximum to make a ramp that is 49m long made up of 32 modules with very gentle curves.
Ductal® has therefore made it possible to design an extremely thin footpath (25 mm) which is finally what gives us the strange impression of seeing people in a state of levitation as it disappears into the vegetation. Furthermore, from a "plastic" viewpoint, it pleased us to combine a material like Ductal® with the cultural aspects of a 19th century style building. The concrete pathway offers a different interpretation, an open and unusual progression. The occasional modifications we have made have enabled us to it give this museum an essential dynamic... just like the international dimension of this creative space that will become a cultural flagship for the city.

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