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Station F. Light for the biggest startup campus in the world

Formally opened in 2017, Station F is the biggest startup campus in the world. Located in the centre of Paris, it is the brainchild of the internet and mobile phone entrepreneur Xavier Niel who has always been interested in the world of startups. Niel has succeeded in attracting investments from a number of corporate giants, such as  Facebook, who invested in the “Startup Garage” programme for data handling companies, Microsoft, that runs the artificial intelligence sector and Vente Privée, the French e-commerce colossus.

The facility is housed in the 34,000 square metre, former Austerlitz Station rail freight depot, built between 1927 and 1929 by the engineer Eugène Freyssinet. Halle Freyssinet, as the building was originally known, is a splendid building constructed of pre-compressed concrete with an extraordinarily light load-bearing structure based on an innovative technique later patented by Freyssinet. Thanks to this highly original characteristic in 2012 Halle Freyssinet was officially nominated a historical monument.

310 metres long and 58 metres away, Station F consists of three parallel naves with slim pre-compressed concrete arches, each of which has a specific function. The refurbishment plan designed by the Wilmotte & Associés studio is simple and effective. It eliminates any superfluous decoration to reveal the elegance of the structure and enhance the refined proportions of the main and secondary pre-compressed reinforced concrete elements. The new window frames that complete the building are made of flat iron and create a comfortable environment while also matching the structure’s original style. 

The building basically consists of a main central space under a vast barrel vault with a large skylight in the middle of it, and a series of individual startup boxes, created from iron structures, which run down either side and are completely separate from the original concrete walls. The small rooms located on the ground and first floor have glass fronts overlooking the shared central space, while the top floor hosts a series of cantilevered container boxes that recall the depot’s original purpose. The building includes a “Share Area - a large open space for meeting and sharing skills and digital technologies - is located, as well as a “Fab Lab” that is equipped with freely accessible 3D printers and a 370-seat auditorium. 

The real heart of the facility, though, is the “Create Zone”, a creative space where all the functional startup structures are located in the form of 24 "villages" (8 on each floor). Each village is unique and houses various services (kitchens, Skype boxes, meeting rooms and so on). The shared work spaces all have an open space design and are equipped with modular, connected tables. Last of all, is the “Chill Zone”, a relaxation area with a restaurant and a south-facing gallery offering a view over a multi-level garden, that is open to outsiders as well as those who work at Station F.

The building’s new interior layout called for a lighting design split between general lighting for the large spaces and low luminance and more adaptable lighting for the work spaces. For the general lighting, Jean Michel Wilmotte used the Platea Pro projector, a luminaire created for exterior application and therefore perfect for the light effects required for the structure’s considerable height. Two different optics were used, a Wide Flood and an asymmetric street optic, and to install the luminaires, a special metal bracket was designed that straddles the beams that run the entire length of the hall and create a constant rhythm along the “Share Area”. In the locker area where the people who work at station F store their personal belongings, recessed Ledplus luminaires fitted with a Floor Washer optic were used as they create a soft homogeneous atmosphere items. The main entrance to Station F, on the other hand, is illuminated with Laser Blade InOut luminaires protected by a special case.

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  • Year
  • Client
    SDECN - Xavier Niel
  • Design
    Wilmotte & Associés
  • Architectural project:
  • Lighting project:
    Wilmotte & Associés
  • Structural engineering:
  • Curator:
    Didier Boy De la Tour
  • Facades:
  • Sustainability engineering:
  • Photographer
    Didier Boy De la Tour

Project Quote

"Our digital nursery project is a real architectural catalyst that joins two great creative energies into a unique, innovative, and thrilling environment. Light management plays a central role in the explosive encounter between the bold vision of a nineteenth century engineer and the unbridled, inspired imagination of a new generation. To illuminate the exceptional volume of the central nave with a forest of lights subtle enough not to obstruct it, we designed the Platea Pro, a high-power LED projector whose minimalist form is matched by outstanding optical performance. It is a luminaire that fits discreetly into its surroundings, facilitating the work of young talent in the world’s largest startup incubator. "

Jean-Michel Wilmotte, Wilmotte&Associes

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