OMA unveils multi-functional exhibition centre in Toulouse
MEETT – the new OMA-designed Exhibition and Convention Centre in France – bridges architecture, infrastructure, urbanism, landscape and public space
OMA’s latest offering, the MEETT Exhibition and Convention Centre in Toulouse, seems to be a place of connections – a project that links the city and the countryside, an industrial part of town with the agricultural landscape to the north, and through its function as an expo site, Toulouse with the rest of the country and the world.
MEETT is located to the city’s north, in its new ‘innovation zone.’ Yet, OMA has resisted creating a continuation of central Toulouse, by using ‘the massive scale and diverse program of MEETT as an antidote to the sprawl of a standard exposition park, in order to preserve the surrounding Occitanic countryside.’ Instead, a comfortable scale and strategically planned connections, infrastructure and open spaces are the name of the game here.
The complex’s arrangement allows for space to breathe and spatial generosity. The project is planned around three main volumes, created in parallel to each other: a row of modular exhibition halls; a convention center and multi-function event hall; and a reception area, including a silo car park for some 3000 cars.
The latter is placed at the centre of the composition, leading visitors to the volumes flanking it and their respective functions. Seen as an ‘extrovert’ structure by its creators, the centre’s design was led by OMA partners Chris van Duijn, Ellen van Loon and Rem Koolhaas. ‘MEETT is not an architectural intervention, but an urban machine. Both monumental in its scale and subtle in its overall impact, it will be a new gateway to Toulouse,’ say the architects. French practices PPa architectures and Taillandier Architectes Associés were both associated designers in the project.
The structure has a fairly limited colour and material palette, alluding to a functional, pared down approach that is simple – yet carefully thought out – and easy to navigate. A series of black boxes, white-colored steel and a polycarbonate skin make up the exhibition halls. Inside, vast, impressive spaces with a utilitarian feel are filled with natural light.
The Event Hall and Convention Center building is flexible and can be transformed through partitions into various configurations, according to each activity’s needs. Meanwhile the reception area functions as a ‘street’ and is named as one, titled Rue Centrale. A transportation hub linking MEETT to the city centre sits next to a 170m long plaza, which forms the project’s public space, drawing in the crowds during planned events. §