ArcelorMittal steel cladding at the service of science: NeuroSpin Research Centre

This high-tech research centre for Magnetic Resonance Imaging, designed by Vasconi Associes Architectes, is located south of Paris in Gif Sur Yvette  and was built under the supervision of the French Atomic Energy Commission CEA. ArcelorMittal Construction's aesthetic steel solutions Arguin and Coque MD were used for the cladding of parts of the building.

Detailed information

The Research Centre and its mission

This centre employs teams of highly qualified researchers whose task is to push back the technical limits of imagery. It also welcomes researchers in neurosciences and cognitive sciences and clinicians who benefit from the methodological progress being made in imagery. This centre combines in the same location both methodological and neurobiological players to achieve a better understanding of the operation of the human and animal brain.


The project forms a linear complex consisting of two parallel buildings organised at various points along a central nave which distributes the various entities whose respective functions are immediately recognisable. This 'gallery' forms the vertebral column of NeuroSpin and serves as a permanent meeting point for the different teams of researchers. The east building, developed on three levels, contains the 'duty free' area as well as the area 'under customs control' and its laboratory modules.

The west building, developed on the ground floor, contains the clinical and pre-clinical research complexes – separated, but closely connected to the technical and medical facilities and to all the magnets, whose alignment gives the project a strong identity. The building expresses its content and, in particular, the alignment of the magnets whose 'roof elements' form a large sine wave.  International lecturers can be welcomed in the amphitheatre.

This general layout opens up to the communal sections, the modules, the offices, the laboratories of researchers, and the plants and vegetation provided, whilst the technical and medical facilities, requiring connection to all the important services, are built against the existing logistics area within the AEC enclosure to the west.

The floor area of the research centre is 11 400 m² with a gross area of 24 000 m².

The west building

The main framework of the west building is made of steel. The main beams (IPE 240) are curved following a sine wave, the secondary purlins are straight and around one metre apart. The joists are traditionally covered with lathing. The roof is made of stainless steel sheets in strips (500 mm wide and 5/10 thick), assembled as a standing seam roof, with the surface finish type UGITOP 1.4301 (304) produced by Aperam. The sheets are laid on the thermal insulation polyester wadding sealed to the laths. The exterior facade of the building is covered with solid Coques MD panels from ArcelorMittal Construction and slatted canopies.

The insulation for the rooms containing large magnets was done with Faraday cages of thick steel plates and a high strength concrete support. It was necessary to employ austenitic steel due to its non-magnetic properties.

The gallery

The gallery, 135 metres long and 7.3 metres wide, forms the central axis of the project and contains the access zones. This well-lit space constitutes the main meeting place for the researchers. The clinic and animal houses are located at the ends.

The metal frame consists of vierendeel beams spaced 2.5 m apart and support the windows and facade. The glazing is screen printed, thereby providing protection from the sun.

The interior facade of the gallery is lined with perforated Coques MD steel panels (3000 mm x 1000 mm). The panels with tilted edges have all been fabricated individually in order to adapt to the lengths of the oblong perforations, thus maintaining the same full spacing between the perforation and the folding edge of the panel. The perforations measure a minimum of 6.8 mm and a maximum of 197 mm. The space between each horizontal perforation is 6.6 mm.

The east building

The east building comprises three levels. The ground floor offers an auditorium with a seating capacity for 140 people, the second level houses the CEA library, and on the upper floor there are conference rooms. The east facade is entirely glazed and covered by metal shading strips.

A number of decorative applications of steel are used in the interior of the building: the reception desk is lined with Arguin sheets made of stainless steel with brushed surface supplied by ArcelorMittal Construction.

Project information

  • Gif Sur Yvette
  • France
  • Architect:
    Vasconi Associes Architectes
  • 2006
  • Client:
    CEA Commissariat à L´Energie Atomique
    Direction des Sciences du Vivant
  • Engineering Firm:
    Green (structure)
    Sodeg (installations)
    ATEC (economy)
  • Contractor:
    Herve S.A.
    Chaput & Stabi Ciam
    Serrurerie Ruiz
    France Sols
  • Photographer:
    Ph. Ruault