Transforming a place of isolation into a place of knowledge and understanding was the challenge for the architects Garbit & Blondeau, the creators of the project for the new Lyon Catholic University built on the area and the buildings of the old city prison that dates back to 1865. Preserving the memory of the place, closed since 2009, was one of the main objectives that guided the project and that has given new life to the old prison; careful restoration work kept its austere architectural features intact transforming them into offices and administrative areas. To house the 89 university classrooms included in the project 7 new buildings were built in clear contrast with the pre-existing ones that integrate perfectly together thanks to a steel and glass structure that connects them together and which carries with it a clear message of openness to the city that is now able to become familiar with the architecture of the old prison.
Thanks to this game or transparency in public areas the prison is reintegrated “with the city and life” explains Jean-Pierre Blondeau. It lives in the daytime thanks to thousands of students and at night because of the new Targetti lighting. The aim was to sufficiently light the walkways in the large public areas and at the same time to highlight the contrast between old and new and between the solidity of the old buildings and the lightness of the new glass structure. To enhance the old stone prison building recessed inground projectors from the KEPLERO range were installed that highlight the materiality of the old building with their grazing light. PYROS projectors perfectly integrated into the steel structure were used to light the walkways. These effects are studied with absolute precision and use skilful control of light that intentionally leave the vertical planes of the new buildings in the shade in order to enhance the historic part of the complex to the full.