MoCo - Contemporary art center

A rallying point for contemporary creation

A new institution for the arts in Montpellier, the MoCo brings together the Panacée and the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts of Montpellier Méditerranée Métropole around the Montcalm Hotel. This headquarters for contemporary creation aims to federate the art scene in Southern France, and to break with cultural centralism, while at the same time avoiding a repetition of the “Bilbao” recipe of the spectacular object. It explores the possibilities for the transformation of the city through art in line with an organic model that rises to the contemporary challenges of regenerating historic cores and recycling existing architecture. The MoCo is in phase with a younger generation’s aspirations towards collective appropriation, co-production and the idea of making do with and together.

A new artistic centrality

Initially destined to become a Museum of Algeria, the Hotel Montcalm, a former military building, will be transformed by PCA-STREAM into a center for contemporary art.  This new place will become a cultural driving force for the surrounding neighborhood while embodying Montpelier’s ambition as an international cultural destination. The agency will give it an unprecedented level of urban visibility through the use of a tailored and artistic signage. With the MoCo, the city will position itself at the heart of a regional, national and international artistic network. The space dedicated to art and the rehabilitation of an ancient building takes  precedence over any kind of spectacular architectural gesture for this next generation art centre. It breaks with the dominant vertical model to the benefit of a collaborative approach that aims to encourage networking and emulation between cultural actors. In doing this it also breaks with French cultural centralization, accompanying the positioning of Montpellier as a counter cultural scene.

Reinventing the model of the art center

Montpellier is betting on a sustainable city by choosing to rehabilitate and network different cultural spaces in its historical centre, one of the largest pedestrian zones in Europe after Venice. The MoCo will become the connector and nerve center of an “organic approach” to cultural apparatus, nearer to local and everyday living, more popular and attractive, while at the same time giving up nothing in terms of quality. The implementation of this ambitious and innovative vision is done through work on the identity and visibility of the Hotel Moncalm, with the goal of designing a desirable vital space that is also an exhibition tool on an international scale, one that remains flexible and efficient despite the constraints imposed by a historic building.  PCA-STREAM has chosen to avoid any temptation to build, and indeed any temptation towards the spectacular quest for a signature. The team has assessed the potential of the building and its site – its park, its terrace, its perspectives and its outbuildings –  in such a way as to identify points that can be reactivated to liberate their creative force and to be in a position to propose a work of re-enchantment

Re-enchanting the Hotel Montcalm

Breaking with its fixed and solemn character, PCA-STREAM proposes to work towards a re-enchantment of the Hotel Montcalm through the activity of artists who will transform the functional into the fictional. The agency, working with the Director and team from the MoCo, is developing a scenario that will include a catering offer, the general theme of fiction, scenes of intervention and choices that have been made by artists. This fiction will unfold in three sequences: the Magic Garden (le Jardin magique) – revisiting the space of Arab-Andalusian inspiration designed for the previous project, proposing a sensorial and poetic experience to visitors – the Re-enchanted Hotel (l’Hôtel réenchanté) – based on the emphasis placed on patrimonial elements and the diverting of a classic writing of the space via contemporary interventions – and finally the Festival Court (la Cour des fêtes),  that takes advantage of the potential for events in this courtyard of honor and the balcony that overlooks it.

A number of points of intensity will mark the urban presence of the MoCo: the park gate, the two Cypress trees, the pool, the side paths, the pediment of the facade, the entrance hall, the canopy of the facade on the courtyard and the roof of the officers’ mess hall. These elements are all points of departure, or of convergence, for fictions pertaining to the re-enchanted Hotel. The MoCo thus summons and assembles multiple imaginations, playing with local features to fill the senses with wonder.

A headquarters for creation

The MoCo has the ambition of becoming a rallying point for a population who wish to come together around contemporary creation. It is a meeting place, a location where youth and the vital energies of Montpelier can come together, the MoCo is a resource-space at the heart of the cultural apparatus of the City, a spontaneous rallying point that centralizes information about ongoing cultural activities. It is nourished by its own history and geography to form an open, vital place whose exterior spaces, designed for the comfort of users, become an integral part of its identity. A space for conviviality and exchange, the MoCo attracts the public through the pertinence of its offer, the singularity of its visual identity and the quality of its spaces: the poetic garden (le jardin poétique), inviting one to rest and relax: three exhibition levels: a restaurant that provides a creative and flexible offer based on local products: a café with a large table around which to meet or to work and an original and modular shop. The flexible spaces of the MoCo emphasize functions of information, exchange and transmission while at the same time hosting different types of events that contribute to the animation of the space.

Artistic collaboration

Rather than imagining monumental architectural works, the approach of PCA-STREAM emphasizes collaboration with artists in relation to interventions located at key points around the site. Chosen in collaboration with the Moco’s management team, the artists create pieces that contribute to the unique identity of the site. The logic is to avoid the formal, spectacular and costly architectural gesture through an approach that aims to recycle existing elements so as to offer a building-tool that serves both the public and artists. PCA-STREAM tackles the project with an objective of sobriety when it comes to the cost of work done, with the goal of freeing up the maximum possible budget for artworks that are specifically produced for the site. It is a question of bringing the maximum added value to the project without going over budget, in line with a very strict economy. Recycling and reusing rather than destroying and starting over, has a global pertinence on economic, architectural and cultural levels; The artistic interventions are an integral part of the rehabilitation and reinvention of the site. Spread throughout the site, they allow the visitor to discover the interior and exterior spaces via a universe that solicits the imagination.

October 2018 © Jean-Philippe Mesguen
October 2018 © Jean-Philippe Mesguen
October 2018 © Jean-Philippe Mesguen
october 2018 © Jean-Philippe Mesguen
October 2018 © Jean-Philippe Mesguen
October 2018 © Jean-Philippe Mesguen
October 2018 © Jean-Philippe Mesguen


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“It’s Late”
Performed by A Beacon School
Written by Patrick J Smith (BMI)
Recording courtesy of Grind Select
From the album ‘Cola'


Client Montpellier Méditerranée Métropole
Program Contemporary art center, bar-restaurant, modular exhibition spaces, contemporary garden of acclimatization
Location Hôtel Montcalm — 10, rue Joffre, 34000 Montpellier
Mission Full mission
Surface area 3 200 sqm
Status Work in progress (expected delivery in 2020)
Team — Structure: Verdier
— Watering system: BET Durand
— Economist: AE75
— Synthesis: C&G
— Landscape Designer: BASE
— Lightning designer: 8'18''
— Scenography: Studio Gardère
— Sound: Echora