Jacques Boucheton (JBA): “Nantes is an urban laboratory at the forefront of architecture” – Le Journal des Entreprises – Loire-Atlantique

You have just learned that you were on the list of 8 architectural firms selected by the Giboire group for the rehabilitation of the Tour Bretagne. Is it a pride?

This is a project that is close to our hearts. And it is indeed a pride to be in this list. There are several hundred major architectural firms in France, and we are now one of the eight candidates who will be able to present a project to rehabilitate and transform the use of the Tour Bretagne. On this file, we are associated with the Nantes agency Urbanmakers. Our application is the only one that is 100% from Nantes.

Is it important for you?

Usually, for this kind of large-scale project, the big Parisian agencies join forces with a local agency, to further legitimize their candidacy in Nantes. We did not choose to leave as a duo with an international team. Our agency has 60 employees and those of Urbanmakers (UMK), 25. We have the size, the talent, the legitimacy, and the desire to go there to defend a Nantes candidacy. Nantes, our city, has long been an open-air urban laboratory at the forefront of what can be achieved in architecture. Our know-how is recognized everywhere else, in France, and in particular in New Aquitaine where we have an agency (JBA is also present in Paris, editor’s note).

Do you seem very attached to this project?

It’s true. The Tour Bretagne is an emblematic building of our city, and our two agencies have already intervened, in particular on a panoramic bar which we called “Le Nid” for Urbanmakers and on a renovation project of several floors. It is a 32-storey office building, 120 meters high, unique in its kind in Nantes, and in the West. For the time being, the tower is somewhat reminiscent of the dark, smooth parallelepiped seen at the start of the film 2001, A Space Odyssey. It seems disconnected from the city that surrounds it and from the neighborhood where it stands. This tower will nevertheless have to accommodate tomorrow between 150 and 200 housing units, a hotel, a restaurant, and social and solidarity economy activities. Working on verticality is a constraint, but it is also an opportunity: we will have to breathe life into this 20,000 m building2, ensure that expectations are met in terms of places for sharing, exchanges and ecology. It is an extraordinary challenge.

Rehabilitation is one of your agency’s strengths?

Rehabilitation is extremely stimulating, by the complexity it brings and by the possibilities it offers. We realize 30% of our turnover on the rehabilitation of housing, but also industrial heritage. The transformation of use, factory, warehouses, for example, is really exciting… We like to rely on the history of these places, to keep traces of the past, built or planted, to enhance structures, such as frameworks metal, and reuse materials (tiles, bricks, rubble, etc.). It is circular architecture. One of the most significant projects in this direction is that of the rehabilitation of a tinsmith, in Nantes, a factory which manufactured metal boxes of biscuits. We wanted to keep the building as it is on the outside, but offer a modern and very warm workspace on the inside. This gave the Nantes site of one of the most important French digital companies, that of Onepoint.

Your agency has experienced strong growth over the past five years, how do you explain that?

We were 15 in 2018, 25 in 2019, 35 in 2020, 50 in 2021 and today we are 60, including 45 architects. We achieve 3.7 million euros in turnover in 2022, and are aiming for 5 million for 2023. The architecture sector is going through a period of almost full employment, and we ourselves are having trouble recruit. To explain this boom of activities and our strong development, several factors come into play. The most important is undoubtedly linked to our historical positioning on the rehabilitation, in particular of large complexes from the 1970s, to improve the energy performance of these large strainers. thermal, but also to restore quality to the habitat so that the inhabitants feel better there. This means that today we are experts in this field, at a time when the urban renewal market is in full swing and when the climate emergency is so significant.

What are your other industries?

Our activity is also based on new housing, at 30%, a very dynamic sector, and, for about 30%, on the tertiary sector (such as the Eiffage headquarters in Saint-Herblain) and public buildings such as health centres, schools, nurseries, town halls… We also like what we call “unicorns” at the agency, small ultra-innovative and creative projects, projects that strongly stimulate our imagination.

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