Extension works at the CNAC


Originally, the spaces in which circus disciplines were practised were limited to the ring and the gymnasium (the old stables). It soon became clear that these were insufficient.
A concrete opportunity for extension came in 1988, just outside Châlons, where it was possible to keep horses and to build an indoor school for them. In 2000, the CNAC erected a permanent big top (29 m Ø), in order to have an additional specialised workspace, in spite of its limited size and its distance from the original site.
A hypothetical project around the year 2000 to take over the site of a barracks which the army was gradually withdrawing from was quickly abandoned. An opportunity then came up in the shape of the Marnaise Agricultural Cooperative, who, for safety reasons were told they were unable to use the grain silos which were too close to a very busy ring road around Châlons-en-Champagne. They were obliged to leave the premises because of this constraint, and the opportunity presented certain advantages for the CNAC : proximity to the original circus, surface area of 21,500 m2.

The acquisition of a new site

On 29 July 2005, the state (the Ministry of Culture and Communication), decided to buy this property (land and existing buildings), with a view to extending the facilities and activities of the CNAC. The sale was finalised on 26 July 2006 for the sum of 1.4 million euros 400,000 euros of which were for the demolition of the grain silos.
This acquisition was made in order to expand the facilities and activities (such as the professional integration year at the CNAC, ongoing training courses in the management of artists and technicians in the performing arts, and a possible course leading to a national teaching certificate for circus).

It was part of a global extension and renovation plan for the original site, to be carried out in three stages :

Phase 1 (2005/2007)

Permanent fairground installation on the newly acquired land including :
- the re-fitting of two old hangars to transform them into secure storage areas and stables comprising 10 boxes with one for use by vets, closed storage for fodder and 2 offices for those in charge of the equestrian activities.
- the transfer and erection of big tops as specialised work areas. 1 permanent big top (29m Ø) and 1 other big top (36m Ø), to be taken down once a year (for technical maintenance work, rental, etc.), 1 completely renovated indoor school (situated close to the stables), for working with the horses,
- the construction of an arena (work and relaxation of horses), whichis protected from the sun, bad weather and especially traffic noise by its position below the overhanging road.
- The demolition of a building at the site entrance to make way for a big top (25m Ø), acquired in 2007 to be used by the professional integration class.
- the fitting out of three rooms for dance, music and theatre in an existing building,
- securing the site (surrounding fence, movement detection lighting, etc).

The above all include important, less visible works such as :
- the creation of underground gas, water and electricity networks,
- enforcing health standards (collecting the water used for washing the horses in a special underground container linked to the sewage system, enclosed manure, etc.).

The cost of this first phase was 900,000 euros.

Phase 2 (2009/spring 2011)

Phase 2 comprises the renovation of the original (circus) site and adjacent buildings under the contracting authority of the owner, the city of Châlons-en-Champagne.

Intended to improve safety and functionality as well as increasing energy savings, the following works are planned :
- replacing the heating, plumbing and ventilation systems,
- replacing the seats and benches in the circus ring (for the audience),
- providing handicapped access (reserved seats, lifts, etc.),
- adapting the adjacent premises to the needs of the department (e.g. renovation of the resource centre open to the public),
- treating the woodwork, re-painting, etc.

3rd phase (begun end 2013 – delivery summer 2015)

A call to tender at the end of 2010 saw the project awarded to the Marseille agency ARM ARCHITECTURE. The architect Mathieu Poitevin has succeeded in perfectly integrating the new constructions with the existing buildings following a carefully planned budget, to turn an agricultural wasteland into a space dedicated to the circus arts.
Objective: to create specialized classrooms for teaching the circus arts

Almost 3,000m2 usable space including the following work carried out:

- clearing the ground and demolishing a part of the former agro-pharmaceutical warehouse,
- removal of asbestos from the existing preserved buildings (storage hangars) and the addition of a new roof, identical to that of the new buildings,
- renovation of the window frames of the original administrative building, occupied since 2006,
- construction of a building for teaching circus arts: a gym, multi-purpose space, a 13.50m high aerial space called the "grand volant," dressing rooms, changing rooms, bathrooms, studies department and technical department offices,
- construction of 13 studios for hosting artists and guest teachers.

Summer 2015, building delivery

The Cnac technical teams will be at work during the summer so that the new spaces will be operational for September 2015. The Cnac will gain 2,600m2 of additional work space for teaching, 2,000 m2 of storage hangars and additional accommodation for artists and guest teachers.
The opening is planned for September 2015

Project management

Contracting authority: the ministry of Culture and Communication
Contracting authority representative: OPPIC – Operator for heritage and cultural real estate projects
Project manager: ARM Architecture; Architect's representative: Matthieu Poitevin

The total cost of the operation (renovation/extension) is 15 M € financed as follows:
- 50 % financed by the French State
- 50 % financed by the following regional bodies who each contributed one third: the Champagne-Ardenne Region, the Marne Department and the City of Châlons-en-Champagne and Department with the Urban community of.