History of the site

At the heart of the city

Despite its location on the banks of the Loire, totally protected from traffic noise, the Institut is nonetheless at the heart of the city.

Just a 5-minute walk from the SNCF train station linking Paris in 2 hours, it's also in the immediate vicinity of the city center, making it easy to explore the city on foot. Residents are made aware of cultural and scientific events in Nantes and the surrounding area. Conversely, the Institute is open to the Nantes public, who can take advantage of conferences and meetings organized throughout the year.

zoom sur le bâtiment Institut des études avancées

The Institut d'études avancées de Nantes welcomed its first class of resident researchers in January 2009.

However, the Institute, which is structured as a foundation, was preceded by a Programme d'études avancées (advanced studies program) which, as early as 2005, enabled a number of leading scientists to be invited to Nantes for stays of a few days or a few months.

The district: Malakoff, Marcel Saupin and EuroNantes

Located at the gateway to the Malakoff district, between the Loire River, the Marcel Saupin stadium and the Saint-Félix canal, the Institut d'études avancées is part of the EuroNantes redevelopment program.

In addition to bridging the gap between Malakoff and downtown Nantes, this program has created a European-scale business and economic district. The first Institute for Advanced Studies to be created in France (2009), the IEA de Nantes, together with the Maison des Sciences de l'Homme (MSH), are helping to make this district a dynamic, diverse and international urban hub. The EuroNantes program includes housing, shops and numerous businesses: around Nantes station, for example, you'll find the head office of Crédit industriel de l'Ouest, the headquarters of Nantes Métropole, the Cité internationale des congrès and the regional headquarters of Capgemini. 

The Institute was created as part of the renovation of Nantes' iconic Marcel Saupin stadium. Beloved by soccer and rugby fans alike, the Marcel Saupin stadium hosted the great battles and victories of the Nantes soccer team for over 20 years, and was one of the venues in which the history of French soccer was written. In April 1984, however, it gave way to the larger, more modern La Beaujoire, built for the European Championship. Having fallen into disuse, renovation and upgrading work had to be considered. This was followed by a political and social battle for the survival of the historic stadium until 2005, when Nantes Métropole issued the first call for a redefinition study. Among its recommendations was the preservation of the stadium and its north stand “in memory of the past glory of the Marcel Saupin stadium, a symbol of the sporting spirit”.

In this appeal, Nantes Métropole and Nantes Aménagement stressed the importance of renewing the identity of the redevelopment project, while preserving the spirit of the place. The creation of the building housing the Institut d'Études Avancées and the Maison des Sciences de l'Homme has been part of the project from the outset: by equipping itself with premises dedicated to research in the humanities and social sciences, the city wishes to be identified as a pioneer in national research.  The program celebrates Nantes' history and heritage, revitalizes an area that has fallen into disuse, and opens up the Malakoff district to the city center. 

The building

The redevelopment of the Marcel Saupin stadium meant that, while it was impossible to retain all the stands, it was essential to open up the interior of the legendary stadium, its pitch and its area, and attract the people of Nantes to make this new venue their own.

The selected project, proposed by the architects FGP Jacques Ferrier, Philippe Gazeau (cf. portfolio pp. 324-342) and Louis Paillard, gives pride of place to openings: the corners have been cleared, the north stand itself has been lightened, and the walkway along the riverbank has been pleasantly landscaped to invite passage. 

Vue du stade Marcel Saupin dans les années 60

The building is to house the Maison des Sciences de l'Homme (CNRS-Université de Nantes), the Institut d'études avancées (a private foundation recognized as being in the public interest), a hotel and accommodation for the Institute's researchers. This complex required a major construction project.

When the work was completed in 2009, the building was immediately recognizable as an open-work structure, with facades facing the Loire and sunshades in alternating blue and orange, imitating the flashes of light on the water's surface. The building has been designed to be energy-efficient: the thermal systems, sunshades, hanging garden and green roofs all contribute in their own way to reducing energy consumption.

Inside, spaces are divided between the MSH and the Institut d'études avancées, but also include shared areas (first floor, amphitheatre, library) to create organic bridges between Nantes-based and international researchers. Numerous terraces, large bay windows flanked by railings and a hanging garden all combine to create a space that is open to the outdoors, giving the impression of being aboard a boat sailing on the Loire. The river is omnipresent: a symbol of the city and its history, it inspires the exchange of ideas held at IEA and opens onto the world. 

The architect

Jacques Ferrier is the commissioning architect for the Saupin/MSH/Institut d'études avancées project.

He set up his own practice in Paris in 1993. He was awarded the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres in 2005 and the Chevalier de l'ordre national du Mérite in 2009. He has also received numerous awards for his work as an architect and urban planner, including the American Architecture Prize 2017, the International Architecture Award 2018 and the Trophée Eiffel architecture d'acier 2018 for the headquarters of the Rouen Normandie Metropole, and the Trophée Bois Ile-de-France 2018 for the Aqualagon water park, for which he also received the Architecture Masterprize 2018.

Jacques Ferrier is a professor at the Écoles d'Architecture and is also pursuing research around the notion of the “sensual city”, which he developed with his partner Pauline Marchetti during their creation of the French pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo in 2010.

This partnership gave rise to their agency, Ferrier Marchetti Studio. Following the success of their experience in Shanghai, they created the Sensual City Studio, a research laboratory for architectural and urban foresight, which continues to nourish the work of their agency to this day.

Jacques Ferrier and Pauline Marchetti place the human being at the heart of their thinking, and open up to different intellectual domains far removed from architecture, such as literature, graphic design, sociology and philosophy. They develop a way of thinking about the city, architecture and urban planning that is in touch with reality, in which they favor the useful and the existing over the idealization of a theoretical future that produces architectures unconnected with the emotions of the inhabitants. They question the predominance of technique: technology has become the master of architecture, rather than its servant, and, they argue, is no longer willing to question itself. In so doing, they propose to take back into consideration the sentimental relationship that inhabitants have with their city, in order to create more humane living spaces.


Bibliography available here.

L'Institut d'études avancées de Nantes