Jean-Richard Bloch was a politically active writer and journalist. His house, La Mérigote, was for him and his family both a sanctuary and a shelter to welcome his foreign friends threatened by dictatorships in their home countries. Years later, the city of Poitiers bought the house in order to revive the idea of the safe haven, with the intent to convert it into a refugee artist residency.
Our first intentions in the project came both from this particular legacy and the analysis of the architectural potential of the existing situation, with the idea of revealing what was already great. The specific relationship between the inside and the outside of the house, with a beautiful park but limited windows, leaded us to the idea that the house still was a shelter, and each window a filter from the outside world. As an introverted refuge, we thought it could be important for future residents to find inside the house some features recreating an exterior atmosphere, through light and materials.
The central part of the house, a dark and narrow staircase in a poor condition indicated the separation between the oldest part of the house and its extension, in the 30's. This junction point being the most damaged part of the project, we knew it would need the most work, and most money. While the works on other parts of the house were simpler, we used this opportunity to convert this specific space into a radically different one that could benefit to the rest of the rooms. With the key architectural element of Second Jour (second day/second light) in mind, we opened entirely this 6m high volume, giving it a high quality artificial light, with programmable intensity and white balance tuning, to invent a new kind of exteriority : an interior space with roughcast on the wall and the light of outside, at different time, in various intensities...
From this bright space, three internal windows – second jours – were designed in each of the three writer's studios, offering specific atmospheric conditions to each room. The resident would set the light in this artificial light fault to equate the exterior one, or tune it to recreate a new sun in the middle of the night, maybe matching the timezone of their home countries.
Two of the studios, in the oldest part of the house, were organized along a structural cross wall, to let the light from those second light flow through the rooms. The almost symmetrical spaces were then design with symmetrical strategies : the biggest pitched ceiling volume as possible, reclaimed artifacts and fixtures, open bathrooms… Those later spaces were also considered as exterior spaces, with artificial light, roughcast and tiles as it were outdoor terraces. Their colors balance their natural orientation : the south one (naturally warmer) features green tiling, while the north one (cool natural light) has reddish tiling and roughcast. The fireplace in one of them wasn't moved at all, and rather used as a useful element of the space. The other bathroom required a specific shape for the headroom of another staircase below, generating a sequence of steps, little shelves to put exotic plants or towels.
As much as possible, all other elements were designed in a very discreet way, with no material expression, all the tubes (piping, handrails, handles) conveniently matching each other in diameter and finishing, for example.