Institut Français

A network at the service of creation

Following its status change and broadened scope of mission, the Institut Français, the operator of France’s cultural action abroad, commissioned PCA-STREAM to develop its new Parisian headquarters and to work on its artistic design. PCA-STREAM instilled a spirit of contemporary creation in its work and conducted artistic collaborations to define the identity of the institution via the figure of the network, the leitmotif of the intervention.

Accompanying a new institution

The Institut Français, an arm of the ministère des Affaires étrangères, replaced Cultures France in 2011, taking on a broadened scope of action with increased resources. Working in close relationship with an established cultural network made of a hundred or so branches and nearly four hundred Alliances Françaises, it ensures the promotion of France’s cultural action outside the country, notably in terms of artistic exchanges and the dissemination of knowledge and ideas. It entrusted PCA-STREAM with the development and the design of its new headquarters in the 7th arrondissement of Paris. The Institut Français upholds a renewed ambition for France’s cultural diplomacy in today’s changing world and must contribute to its cultural influence. Its headquarters is naturally a place for representation as it must receive an exacting international crowd from the art world.

Contemporary offices

Beyond the organization of work spaces, PCA-STREAM had to design a project that was tailored to the image of the mission of the institution. Both government organizations and private businesses must, with constrained means, imagine work spaces that promote the well-being and the creativity of their staff. In spite of the existence of dense spaces, which are subject to heavy regulatory requirements (French IGH standards), and despite limited means and a tight schedule, PCA-STREAM has endeavored to do its best to soften the existing environment. Glazed partitions with views toward the outside, the choice of brightly-colored furniture that improves the brightness of the installation, and additional lighting may contribute to give off a domestic vibe. A spirit of contemporary creation was also instilled in the project, thus reflecting the actions of the institution. To achieve this, PCA-STREAM intervened as an artistic curator, and invited both French and international artists to work on the theme of the networking of cultural creation.

Creative collaborations

In close dialogue with its representatives, PCA-STREAM has sought to identify the specific values of the Institut Français before developing devices to script them spatially. It is the idea of a global networking of culture that took the edge here, denoting the mission of cultural dissemination of the organization as well as its unique network structure. PCA-STREAM worked with the Detanico & Lain duo—Brazilian linguists, semiologists, and graphic designers who work at the crossroads between graphic design and contemporary art. Their project graphically explores the concept of the network, proceeding from the reorganization of elements forming the letters of the alphabet. Keywords—Arts, Exchanges, Creation, Language, Knowledge, Writings, Cinema, Partners—provide graphic material for the creation of new combinations in a system in motion.

Spatial dynamics

The network designed by Detanico & Lain as a metaphor for the Institut Français is printed on the ground and passes through the different floors and departments. It can be found on the glazed partitions, thus preserving the intimacy of the staff while enhancing the provision of ample light. The use of the network concept metaphorically forms part of the building and brings all the departments together by conferring a consistent identity to the various work spaces. In the lobby, neon lights form the logo of the Institut Français, flooding the gateway with blue light. Behind the reception desk, an installation developed with the artists Collectif 1.0.3, made of a hodgepodge of screens of flashing images, symbolizes the ongoing activities of the Institute throughout the world.

A lively artistic program

By taking on the role of curator, PCA-STREAM offers a full-fledged artistic project. PCA-STREAM designed an operation to fund the original works of artists thanks to the use of part of our own fees and contributions from the companies working on the project. The project becomes a concrete way of supporting contemporary creation. The ambition of this project goes beyond a one-off spatial creation since a concept of seasonal artistic programming has been developed for the Institut Français headquarters. The offices are organized around patios that are bordered on the ground floor by an interior gallery that is used by everyone in the building. Temporary interventions on the glazing of these patios serve to promote the action of the Institut Français. For the first season, we commissioned the artists Alain Bublex and Renaud Auguste-Dormeuil.


Client Institut Français
Program Office design ; Curating of in-situ art works
Location Paris 15e
Mission Full mission
Surface area 3 800 m2
Cost 2 M€ HT
Status Completed in march 2012

Caption(s) image(s) from the page header

  • © Jean-Philippe Mesguen