paris: les magasins généraux opening

© betc / photography: hervé abbadie

in a city as sprawling and dynamic as paris, good things can pop up in unexpected places, and in this case, it's a stone's throw outside the perennially congested périphérique ringway. the industrial surrounds of suburban pantin is where french ad agency betc has raised the bar beyond its usual realm of celebrated media campaigns, and create a contemporary hub of creativity and lifestyle  one with its head office firmly embedded at the very core. the company picked les magasins généraux, a former 1930s flour and grain warehouse right on canal de l'ourcq. although at 20,000 sqm. [215,278 sq.ft.] of full of potential, and at the same time architecturally imposing, the building had become awash with graffiti over the years.

fast forward to mid-september 2016, and the multi-storey complex looks pristine, as good as new even, thanks to a collab effort of french architect frédéric jung, quite an expert in transforming historical structures into modern and functional places, and design practice t&p work unit. the two entities rightfully put emphasis on the cultural legacy that the building represents, honouring the most significant of its original architectural features, most notably the passageways across the east and west wings and the towering pillars. the newly created settings, infused with timber and other natural materials, evoke a sense of modernity and a new way of living and working that comes with it.

need more details? two indoor patio wells, filled with lush ferns, provide ample natural light, but obviously the extensive redevelopment also strongly signals its new purpose. much of the building’s uncommon interior design spawns from its many original yet atypical spaces that include the covered courtyard under the building’s tower, a nap room under vaulted roofs on the top floor, garden area beneath a concrete pergola and mezzanines on the east and west sides. the transformation is particularly evident by betc's new head office, which as it happens, also seems to reflect today's confluence of the media industry's many, and also new, disciplines.

it's here where t&p work unit specifically comes into the picture. collaborating with betc honcho rémi babinet and its art director aurélie scalabre, a series of eclectic settings have been created that fuse work and play, in order to achieve higher creative goals. boosting the design mix even further, they commissioned a string of up-and-coming designers to create bespoke artworks,  furniture pieces, and even entire working spaces. but it's not all spanking new stuff that mesmerizes both staff and visitors globally sourced vintage pieces from the 1950s and 1960s dot the office's many lounges.

adding up to the eclectic format are the company's in-house café and restaurant, in addition to an adjacent library, where staff can eat, chill, and brush up any expertise. the new betc headquarters are part of a bigger urban redevelopment scheme, and as such it has an interactive side that should benefit and also inspire the local community. the ground floor is completely open to the public, featuring a creative event space, an organic food hall, and a concert venue/restaurant. whoever said suburbia is boring, clearly hasn't been to pantin's revived new waterfront. location: 1 rue de l'ancien canal [pantin].

© betc / photography: hervé abbadie + philippe garcia