La Maison des têtes, a French heritage building, has been transformed into a modern restaurant

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La Maison des têtes

‘La Maison des têtes’ (or ‘the house of heads’ in English) is a historic and listed property built in 1609 in the heart of the Alsace wine region in Colmar, France, whose name is derived from the 109 small head sculptures that decorate its renaissance style façade. This structure, which is now a five-star hotel that boasts two restaurants, is considered to be one of the most well-known landmarks in Colmar and overlooks the Unterlinden Museum, which Herzog and de Meuron recently renovated and rebuilt. f+f architectes’ client Eric Girardin sought to establish a new restaurant offering contemporary gastronomy, as well as renovate the foyer, common areas, and hotel rooms, along with an existing brasserie selling classic French and Alsatian foods.

The f+f architectes’ hotel is accessible from the street by a designated paved courtyard shaded by climbing vine plant foliage. The lobby, which was bleak and heavy with wood panels, has been renovated in a contemporary fashion, contrasting with and showing the remnants of the thousand-year-old City Wall of Colmar, which crosses the lobby. The reception area was designed as a basic counter, a free terminal, to minimize the distance between clients and personnel. It’s made of lacquered MDF, also used to make the side table and bench. The back offices and luggage storage are located behind a flush door. The Restaurant Girardin stands in dramatic contrast to its surroundings’ Renaissance exterior and rusticity.

La Maison des têtes

The only traces of the façade can be found in the listed stained glass windows facing the court. The ceiling is made up of a series of non-uniformly curved surfaces, which is a modern interpretation of classic vaults. While medieval clerical and monastery architecture is referenced for its sense of stillness and meditation, these surfaces are treated with a unique coating to provide a harmonious acoustic environment. The walls are white, while the floorboards and lower panels are conventional. The Nest, a cross between a screen and a yurt, surrounds and coves a table without separating it, creating a more intimate setting while expressing the room’s overall character.

It is composed of a timber frame with a cantilever covered in scales of fabric arranged in a geometric pattern. The interior is white, with outside-colored linen on the seats and armchairs. Half spheres of cast glass sconces placed on the wall for mood lighting (materials indicating stained glass) with directional lights on the other wall for indirect light via the vaulted ceiling contribute to the staging of the room.

Finally, wedge-like mobile carts in white lacquered MDF enable flexible and changing composition and division of the area based on the measurements of the tables and the number of visitors expected for the evening. Recesses for wine buckets and other storage spaces are included in several of these service carts.

A wine cellar is located beneath the restaurant since the Alsatian region is renowned for its outstanding wines. It serves as a venue for tasting and showcasing Alsatian wines and boosting wine tourism. The cellar is accessed from the neighboring room, which serves as a backdrop to the restaurant with its antique tiled stove. Unlike the main restaurant space, admission to the rooms is made through a monochromatic ‘lock’ (either in night blue or taupe grey) that offers access to the bathroom, toilet, and room. This area also includes a lacquered cabinet with a wardrobe, service column, minibar, and coffee machine. Both the paneling and the wood beams were preserved. A desk and an upholstered bench finish off the layout.

Project Info

Project name: La Maison des têtes
Architects: f+f architectes
Client: Sarl Maison des Têtes/ Girardin
Location: Colmar France
Date: completed august 2016
Area: 2500 sqm

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