The Cité Internationale is a hybrid building that brings together three different owners and four independent purposes. The south side is the Esplanade side housing the Sports Center for the city of Rennes. On the west façade, are the entrances to the Université de Bretagne Loire (UBL) offices. The final two sections are for Centres régionaux des oeuvres universitaires et scolaires (CROUS), a state-run program whose mission is to promote the living and working conditions of university students. On the north side of the building is the CROUS residence for foreign students and a university cafeteria sits in the center.


Parisian architecture firm, Hérault Arnod Architectes was commissioned to design the building located at the interface between two very different urban logics: on one side, a modern district made up of wide public spaces and large-sized buildings, on the other, the historical town center consisting of smaller slate-roof buildings. The architects successfully articulated the traditional city and the modern city scales, using both the organization of its volumes and the layout of its functions.


The project organizes the coexistence of the four programs inside a single, simple and compact structure. The building consists of a base, located in the alignment of the streets, which houses the programs open to the public, and a high-rising volume housing the residence for academics, spiked with balconies.

The overlay of the four programs located at the base and which function in a totally independent way is included in a façade system, vertical rhythm alternating aluminum and glass, which unifies the whole structure inside a bright transparent envelope. The project is open on all sides and the activities inside are visible, a way to bring movement and life and liven up the public space.


The building is a passive energy project. It implements a combination of architectural and technical solutions to meet a very exacting environmental program.

The façades’ graphic system stems from the climatic logic. To the east and to the west, the protruding polished-aluminum vertical needles offers efficient protection from the sun. The whole generates an abstract composition with subtle texture variations. The image changes according to the view angle: almost invisible when facing them, the needles create large paintings when seen sideways.


On the boulevard, the vertical building houses the residence for foreign academics. Its design creates a contrast with the lower part and it is partially separated from it by way of a void at the 4th level. Each room has its own large bay window with a French window opening onto the balcony. The rooms’ furniture, made of multiple-ply beech wood, is made to measure. It includes the kitchen, the bed, the desk and numerous integrated storage spaces.

The north façade on the boulevard de la Liberté is created by the winter gardens which offer both thermal and noise insulation. The very light and simple glazing façade alternates fixed and opening panels. Vines and tree ferns are planted in the back and the whole thus form a large green image open towards the city.

[photography by André Morin]