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Pôle d’Excellence en Robotique, Dijon

Contributed by Florian Hardwig on Mar 4th, 2020. Artwork published in
circa 2016
Pôle d’Excellence en Robotique, Dijon
Source: ANRT_type. License: All Rights Reserved.

Inaugurated in November 2016, the Center of Excellence in Robotics, Dijon was devised by Chouette Architecture. According to their project page, it comprises –

three training rooms, one conference room as well as a showroom which house 13 latest-generation robots supplied by the main players in industrial robotics. It is for these reasons that we decided on a fully glazed ground floor which allows the public to watch the robots at work. The floor covered with golden cladding will be the symbol of excellence. The interior of the building will be treated with care by assuming the use of raw but noble materials which will give a strong character to the building.

Unfortunately, the excellence didn’t extend to the typography, as ANRT_type notes. The typeface is Arial, the epitome of defaultisma rather unimaginative choice that is the opposite of noble. What’s worse is the distribution of the letters: It follows the grid dictated by the cladding, with two characters per tile. The problem is that Arial is not monospaced, i.e. its glyphs are of different widths. This inevitably results in irregular spacing, with some pairs being way too tight (see e.g. OT) and others separated by vast gaps (e.g XC). The spaces between words are ridiculously large (the width of a full tile), and not even either. On top of everything, the apostrophe uses the straight form. This might have become acceptable in text messaging and email, but not for something more lasting and prominent like architectural lettering.

Titus Nemeth replies: “But it is excellent! How better could you illustrate a robot voice typographically?” I doubt this was the intention here. It looks more like the work of someone without an eye for the finer points of type.


  • Arial




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5 Comments on “Pôle d’Excellence en Robotique, Dijon”

  1. Here’s a quick simulation of how the façade would look like with a monospaced font. The font I’ve used is FF ThreeSix Mono. It can be argued whether a robotics center needs a letter style that further emphasizes the technologic theme, but at least it’s a more determined choice than Arial. The principle of two characters per tile would work just as well with any other monospaced font, including Arial Monospace. The word spaces are still quite big, but they don’t bother me as much as with Arial. And yes, the apostrophe here is straight, too – a curly one wouldn’t match the style of ThreeSix, which, unlike Arial, is comprised exclusively of horizontals and verticals.

    The approach is spoiled by the fact that the tiles are not of even width (see RO vs BO) – a detail I didn’t notice in the original photo, probably because of the distracting typography.

  2. Kudos for solving the one glyph-without-a-friend better!

    I love to find this small follow-up to Piet Schreuders’ Voor verbetering vatbaar (“Fit for improvement”) — a small booklet from the 2000s (and later published on Issuu by the author) in which Schreuders, a Dutch design eminence-grise, shows actual designs side by side with photoshopped proposals for improvement.

  3. Oh, that’s a great book! Thanks for referencing it. Maybe we should start a VVV series? I didn’t know it’s available on Issuu, that’s handy! For those who prefer a printed version, the book is still available from Uitgeverij de Buitenkant.

  4. Francesco Bertelli says:
    Mar 6th, 2020 9:36 pm

    I actually loved the sloppiness here. I thought was made on purpose in a typical neo-brutalism attempt.

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