ECDM: Thiais Bus Centre


How do you address an industrial site – surrounded by simple box-like buildings, within a sea of asphalt, and meant to function as a depot for 300 buses? That was the question posed by the RATP [Régie autonome des transports parisiens – ‘autonomous control of Parisian transport’] in regards to a much-needed new bus center in Thiais, a small suburb in southern Paris [about 7 miles from the center of the city].

Enter Emmanuel Combarel Dominique Marrec Architects [ECDM], a Parisian firm founded in 1988, who’s answer seems almost ridiculous in its simplicity: just make a bus park – a ‘vast monolithic concrete slab, uniformed territory composed of one sole material’.


[Our] work focuses on transformational and flexible concepts as well as on issues of sustainable development. The open programming provides an overall conceptual platform to define specific scenarios for specific projects. The method may be characterized as an integrative approach. In close collaboration with the client, associated engineers, consultants and future occupants, our work consists of bringing forth fundamental concepts and guiding a design response appropriate for a specific time, place and program. The pertinent solution is as much concerned with functional legibility and technical appropriateness, as with architecture’s significant and poetic content. The search for quality in design and construction is at the center of the firm’s organization and is demonstrated through close collaboration between all disciplines. The team’s philosophy is built around progressively acquired principles distilled from 12 years of experience in developing specific projects in all sectors of architectural practice including new construction, renovation, urbanism and design [via ECDM].


With the need for a building to house administrative offices, and meet any of the needs that the 800+ bus drivers may have, a bus center emerges on the site to function as a hub for this portion of the transit system. The design plays on the expansive asphalt groundplane, creating a building that doesn’t rise from the pavement, but within it – as if the center was covered over when the parking lot was paved.

The material used in the construction – Ductal® – is a high performance concrete, who’s particular qualities allowed for smooth, curving edges that give the building the appearance of having no beginning or end [it gives me the impression that on a hot summer day the building would actually become malleable at the edges, like so much asphalt].


The 2 storey building is a simple 35 by 35 meter square, meant to appear as banal as the surrounding asphalt and concrete – ‘like a piece stamped from distorting the existing concrete surface of the Bus Center’. The plan is therefore a simple series of rooms surrounding a main corridor, with a central courtyard, which are intended to be adaptable to changing programmatic needs in the buildings future.


This concrete simplicity – both volumetrically and in plan – is then ‘split’ and ‘cut’ open, exposing colorful window walls, based on the curtain wall window systems of nearby office buildings. This move, pulling away the seemingly never-ending monotone skin to reveal a shiny, vibrant, interior – which gives a visual interest to the building that would be otherwise lost. Perhaps this is meant to be a sign of life within the structure – reminiscent of life [vegetation] pushing through and splitting our asphalt roadways in the search for light. Either way, the center is an interesting take on addressing the utilitarian needs of a building, while tossing in some social commentary [we’re covering the world with asphalt] for good measure.


I really wish that there were NO openings other than these ‘splits’ in the facade [no strip windows] – really playing on the pulling apart of this concrete skin to create opening for light and circulation


::MNP voudrait remercier Emmanuel Combarel d’ECDM pour ces images, et pour l’information sur ce projetand for all you non francophone readers, go learn about our ninjas ECDM::

Posted: December 17th, 2007
at 11:32pm by orangemenace

Categories: architecture,featured ninjas

Comments: 6 comments


6 Responses to 'ECDM: Thiais Bus Centre'

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  1. I think this structure is amazing but I have a few questions

    1) is the first picture skin the concrete ductal that was mentioned? it looks metallic. it doesnt really matter either way just curious.

    2) the function of this is a bus stop? i dont really understand it

    Mark Anthony

    20 Dec 07 at 8:58 pm


  2. Yes – that material in the first/all the images is Ductal, which is concrete [or concrete-like, anyways]. It’s some craziness thought, right? All those dimples – you could never do that with regular concrete and expect it to turn out right/last for long.

    It’s not a bus stop – its a bus depot center – basically its the place where they park the buses, and from which they run that portion of the city’s bus system.


    20 Dec 07 at 9:09 pm


  3. cool! thanks for the clerification

    Mark Anthony

    22 Dec 07 at 7:33 pm


  4. Great… its really amazing.


  5. I am not sure if the structure serves its purpose. The style is great though.


    28 Jul 08 at 3:47 am


  6. Was this depot design to house the busses inside, or is there a large exterior parking lot to accommodate the 300 busses? In this depot, where do the busses refuel, get washed and maintained?


    5 Nov 08 at 5:48 pm



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