Music School Louviers extension
by Opus 5


French architects Opus 5 have built a concert hall on top of a former seventeenth century convent in northern France (+ slideshow).

Music School Louviers by Opus 5

The glass-fronted extension wraps over the southern wing of the complex, creating an orchestral hall with an undulating mirrored ceiling on the uppermost floor and a music library on the first floor below.

Music School Louviers by Opus 5

A new entrance foyer is located behind the ground floor cloisters, which have been infilled with glazing to provide visitors with a view out over the river running alongside.

Music School Louviers by Opus 5

The remaining facades of the extension are windowless and are clad with concrete panels.

Music School Louviers by Opus 5

The convent of the Penitents in Louviers, Normandy, has served a variety of uses over the years and has housed a church, a prison and a tribunal court, but was converted into a music school in 1990.

Music School Louviers by Opus 5

See our story about a house with stone screens by Opus 5 here.

Music School Louviers by Opus 5

We’ve published several architecture projects recently that wrap over existing buildings, including a white concrete extension over the top of a former brewery.

Music School Louviers by Opus 5

See all our stories about parasitic architecture »

Here's a project description from Opus 5:

Rehabilitation and Extension of the Music School Louviers


The antique convent of the Penitents, in the city center of Louviers - Normandy, is a very exceptional example of "cloister on water", made of a complex assembly of successive constructions.

Music School Louviers by Opus 5

The monastery was built between 1646 and 1659 for the Franciscan brethren. There used to be a church in the west and two conventual wings surrounding the central building.

The cloister was sold in 1789 as a national fortune: the conventual parts were transformed into prisons and the church into a tribunal.

Music School Louviers by Opus 5

In 1827, the church was demolished and the tribunal was transferred in a new part of the edifice. The prison closed in 1934 while the old south wing started falling down. The building, partially amputated, was reused as a music school in 1990.

Music School Louviers by Opus 5

The remains of the cloister above the river ‘L’Epervier’ are forming an ‘Impressionist’ picture combining stone, vegetation and water in a beautiful harmony. This landscape value has been highlighted and interpreted in the rehabilitation project.

Music School Louviers by Opus 5


The brief was to offer Louviers a new musical school, modern, functional, attractive and representing the town’s cultural policy. The plan was also to highlight the archaeological heritage and its exceptional site in the heart of the city.

Music School Louviers by Opus 5

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Finally, the project aimed to display a new image of the place and to shed its prison characteristics. The project of the New Musical School of Louviers in the convent of the Penitents – 24 classrooms, a score library and two big orchestra rooms- was raising a certain problematic in term of rehabilitation because of a heavy program implicating substantial interventions: the contemporary extensions have become more important than the existing building.

These were conceived in a very tight plot which led the architects to fill all free spaces, removing the "breathings" and raising these extensions on top of existing walls.

Music School Louviers by Opus 5

click above for larger image

The result is a compact project where the new parts dominate the ancient elements; however, the historical construction is still governing. This is an ‘intimate’ program within each task requires isolation and concentration and will adapt to the compact and intimate character of the project.

South Extension

The second extension, replacing the missing parts of the south wing, exposes its front to the water, towards the cloister and the city. Its incredible position represents the key of the project. It hosts the major element of the program: the big orchestra hall. It represents the emblem of the musical school and composes the landscape with natural elements.

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This façade fits in a simple rectangular glass box with chrome stripes reflecting the surrounding environment and fading in the sky. It appears as an echo to music and as a poetic image of the sound. It has two characteristics - sweetness and creativity during the day, warm and glowing at night. This room, by its transparency and its lightness, stands out of its strict and severe environment. It is a showcase exhibiting the building's creative life.

Music School Louviers by Opus 5

Glazed Façade

The North façade is made of laminated glazed panels within the inside layer has been coated with mirror finish (titanium, siliconitride, chrome et siliconitride) A ‘non-crossing’ attachment system holds the glass and leaves the fixing points invisible from outside.

The whole set is maintained on mirror polished stainless steel wales of 10 mm sickness and 25 cm depth. The wales are suspended to a mechanically welded steel beam of 450x900 mm used as a duct blower for the orchestra room.

Music School Louviers by Opus 5

Concrete panels

The frontier façades are made of prefabricated concrete panels of 8 cm thickness/ 180 cm width and of variable heights.

They are cut out to follow the surface of the ancient masonry. These panels are reinforced and attached on the extensions’ metal structure.

  • cuneese

    I see the pictures, and all I can see is the beauty of the remaining stonework. Sure the facade is nice, and so are the interiors. But I can’t help but feel sorry for the convent. Must have been a very peaceful looking place before: I can just imagine strolling down the road in this quiet town before this was built.

    I feel like this purposely killed the environs, a kind of Libeskind in a smaller scale. Now it looks like any suburb. I’d love to go there myself and see if these impressions are actually true.

    Plus what’s with the oblique fencing? Is that an imitation of grass or what? The lack of respect toward the site, the heritage and ultimately their own culture hurts me. Just notice how the wing extension, the vertical body, completely obliterates the central pitched roof.

    This is not at all a critique on contemporary architecture. The point is Asian (I guess American too) people would never do anything like this to their historical sites, they are too respectful towards their heritage. Why is Europe still somehow scorning its past, failing to acknowledge it s collective identity? Recognizing its cultural value and acting accordingly is the challenge the old world faces. Projects such as this one show how we’re currently failing at this.

    My two cents. I’m sad.

    • chris

      On the contrary. I think the most sensitive building restoration is done through the use of minimalism as it’s non-obtrusive and adds rather than detracts from the building.

      As for your comment: “Asian (I guess American too) people would never do anything like this to their historical sites, they are too respectful towards their heritage sites” – this is completely farcical. Asians, in their pursuit of Westernisation, show little respect towards their greatest monuments. As for Americans, they seem to shamelessly demolish any heritage in favour of tall glass boxes.

      • nick

        “Asians, in pursuit of Westernization, show little respect towards their greatest monuments” – This is a generalization taking into account many cultures, and not a very good one at that. Have you been to Japan?

        “As for Americans, they seem to shamelessly demolish any heritage in favour of tall glass boxes” – Also a generalization, and something not only particular to the US. Care to be more specific?

      • cuneese

        I agree on your first point: as you can see I linked an example of a project interacting with a similar setting, using a minimalist language but being as you say no-obtrusive. Very much unlike this Music School.

        I live in Asia and as far as you are right on their pursuit of Westernization, that doesn’t really affect their existing architecture. You d be amazed how these two worlds, the ancient and contemporary-westernized, live together side by side. Pachinkos and Pagodas in Japan.

        On the other hand I want to point out the recognition of the Pritzker to Wang Shu, who is an Asian pioneer in combining modernism with a cultural sensitivity which is, as far as I know, unknown in Europe. The main difference is that modern architecture being a produce of the western world we tend to live it as a natural historical evolution, rather then as an alternative language. This mindset justifies the comment of Zab, which seems to think I was expecting to see some kind of conservative restoration, which is not the case. I am well aware we don t live in the 17th century anymore, and I don t ask to blend in seamlessly. I ask for subtlety, sensitivity, and not this violent and arrogant approach.

        The theoretical approach to architecture, and therefore the resulting practice, is far from being balanced today. Modernism needs to be diluted and regarded objectively, it will take a few more years to do so but it will happen. I see the germ in some works by Zumthor. But Wang Shu gives me greater hope.

    • zizi

      Agree, this intervention lacks subtlety.

  • cuneese
  • zab

    I was wondering if Cuneese had a look at the cloister before the rehabilitation? After research, I can tell there were nothing else remaining except a couple of stones. This is also explained in the text of the architects. I believe their proposal is interesting, audacious and respectful. Reproducing the past would have been strange: we live in another time, far from the seventeen century.

    • cuneese

      The proposal is interesting, there’s no question about it. Audacious: perhaps 20 years ago. But how is it respectful in any way? And how can you describe the cloister as “a couple of stones”?

      Zab, I never called for a reproduction of the past, but for an attitude different from one of complete refusal.

  • Jamez

    Sometimes this form of Modernism comes off cold and disconnected from the natural world. If this is what the cloister is supposed to be like in its finished state, it's a mess. One goes to the cloister for contemplation and rest in a contained natural setting. This looks almost prison-like, unfinished and frightening! Can't we articulate a modernism that contrasts IN HARMONY with nature and tradition?

  • bernardo

    I find these comments quite conservative. the transformation looks interesting: I completely understand the project. This used to be a cloister, then a prison and it is now a musical school. The architecture has evolved through time and the building seems in complete harmony with nature and with music. Beautiful!

  • rarad

    To jamez: you clearly haven’t read the text. Already the title says “music school”. There used to be a cloister 400 years ago.

  • zizi

    The problem here is not the coexistence of old and new but the frankly indelicate way it was done.