Galvani House / christian pottgiesser architecturespossibles

Architects: Christian Pottgiesser- architecturespossibles (Paris)
Location: Paris,
Client: private
Design Team: Christian Pottgiesser (architect) , Alejandro Ratier (designer), Pascale Pottgiesser (artist)
Engineer: Joël Betito
Assistant: Dr. Florian Hertweck
Furniture design: arch. Raphael Budin (low table + dining table)
Contractors: ERCN (main construction), Carrières du Bassin Parisien (masonry), Menuiserie du Val de Loire (carpentry), ATN (landscaping), CMBR (windows), Miroiterie MARUT (mirrors), ESBEI (waterproofing), EGEBAT (plumbing), SAP/ABD (paintwork)
Design year: 2002
Construction year: 2003
Constructed area: 140sqm extension, 40sqm entrance + winter garden,
160sqm terraces + gardens + 160sqm existing house
Budget: private
Photographs model: Pascale Thomas
©Photographs: Gert von Bassewitz (Hamburg)

In 1927 the imitation of historical architecture came to a culmination in the winning design for the “Palais des Nations” in Geneva (transl.: Palace of Nations, HQ for the League of Nations, now the 2nd largest United Nations Office) .

Henri Paul Nénot, one of the winning architects, and since 1895 holding the department chair for architecture in the “Académie des Beaux-Arts” in Paris, confirmed in an interview that he was very happy for having reached the Beaux-Arts ‘s goal: defeating that certain barbaric architecture that has been around for a few years. With that scandalous architecture he meant what we know now as modern architecture. Needless to say that Le Corbusier, also a participant in the competition, was very disappointed by the results and even more by that remark since he published ‘Vers une architecture’ – his advocation for the concept of modern architecture-  four years before (1923). And yet it became the most influential book on architecture to date.

The transmission and evolution of rationalistic ideas in writings by Abbé Laugier (1713-1769), Jean-Nicolas-Louis Durand (1760-1834), Eugène Viollet-le-Duc (1814 – 1879) and Le Corbusier (1887-1965) were the hotbed for the setup of a theory of modern architecture. Wasn’t it for the place of birth, the place of death or the city where they had spent a lot of time and work, Paris is the setting they all had in common.

And let it just be that city so rich of history and spirit where a simple but remarkable extension enriches the street view with its rationality, in contrast to its neoclassical neighbours.

An existing three story small mansion needed to expand towards the backyard to accomodate seven inhabitants.

Les “Parcs et Jardins” (Parks and Gardens), the existing building codes and the owner requested that the existing garden at street level were to be kept in the project. The view towards the old building was not to be obstructed and a garage and entrance hall were to be implemented by the street. No more than a street level plus one upper level were allowed. And the parisian basin rock were to be used in the façade. (The Louvre has plenty of it.)

The owner wanted six spaces, all named by its activity and primary requirement: entrance, cooking/eating/light, hosting/light, hosting/not being seen/light/garden, watching movies with friends, car.


The power of three dimensional design proofed its right in a single amorph surface that structures all these complex demands. Linking the doorstep of the old building and the new entrance it stretches, curves and bends, adapting to  the program beneath, above and in face of it. From the street it’s acting in stealth mode, where the only element drawing attention is the few hundred tons weighing brick block, hovering above the garden and two glass walls, pierced by a preserved lime tree.


The urban garden serves as the upper skin of the concrete surface, containing the kitchen, dining area and garage. These are well lit by two patios, piercing through the surface.


A prototype for the domestic elements showing their sculpted stand-alone character is to be found in the oversized chimneys for stairs, not touching the ground.

The textural contrasts, vivid colours, sensuous aesthetic and accentuation of the building’s garden pay hommage to Luis Barragàn’s work (1902-1988).

Everything seems designed to be forgotten, construction details sparkling in their abscence.

It feels as if it ‘s drawn from human necessity, lacking attention seeking frivolity without purpose, suiting the urban fabric, silent but radiating intelligence, in line with the french rational tradition. A protection from urban city business,  hiding underground, under a garden camouflage. Serenity in the disposition of materials, details, architectural elements and residential activities makes living in it an experience for the architectural mind.
By proper analysis, imagination deciphered the parisian urban code. It enacts a strange different logic, setting up a new but rational typology.

Cite: "Galvani House / christian pottgiesser architecturespossibles" 07 Apr 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 20 Aug 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=17339>

41 comments

  1. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    Fantastic project, amazing staircase. Just don´t know about this intern garden…

  2. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Witty, imaginative and retroactve modern,… Love it. A pitty that landscape came a bit old fashion, yet the spirits is high…

  3. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    wow….for a nice project!!!
    very fine details…specially the stairs and facade…would have loved to see some plans….

  4. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    What an amazing project, simple, pure, concrete, a example about how to build between two houses…..great project¡¡¡

  5. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I remember seeing this project years and years ago and thinking, I loved the concept but was not convinced it could be pulled off without looking like a gimmick. well, looks like years of thought, hard work and well executed details has paid off. pretty exciting project. However, I agree with Jeison…maybe the garden is a bit much….or maybe its just bad landscaping. could be better with less dirt and rocks and maybe more low light perennials and ground cover…

  6. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Great! Makes me think of MVRDV with French sensuality and poetry… Which makes it so much better and clever.

  7. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Does anyone know the address? I live in Paris and would love to see it for myself. Thanks.

  8. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    ERRATUM :
    please read :
    project team Galvani House : Christian Pottgiesser, Dr. Florian Hertweck
    instead of : Christian Pottgiesser, Alejandro Ratier, Pascale Pottgiesser

  9. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Correction in the credits at the request of the architect:

    Project team = Christian Pottgiesser with Dr.Florian Hertweck

  10. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Isnt it a little too dark in the centre?
    Anyway-very non-conventional thinking,and theres no”proto oma’s” at all :D
    good luck to the architect!

  11. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Very nice. But I don’t understand why infill housing like this often fails to maximize the space, in this case vertically, in a dense city with high property values. Another storey or two would seem in order judging by neighbouring buildings.

  12. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Sobre lo que pudo no ser
    “In 1927 the imitation of historical architecture came to a culmination in the winning design for the “Palais des Nations” in Geneva (transl.: Palace of Nations, HQ for the League of Nations, now the 2nd largest United Nations Office) .
    Henri Paul Nénot, one of the winning architects, and since 1895 holding the department chair for architecture in the “Académie des Beaux-Arts” in Paris, confirmed in an interview that he was very happy for having reached the Beaux-Arts ‘s goal: defeating that certain barbaric architecture that has been around for a few years. With that scandalous architecture he meant what we know now as modern architecture. Needless to say that Le Corbusier, also a participant in the competition, was very disappointed by the results and even more by that remark since he published ‘Vers une architecture’ – his advocation for the concept of modern architecture- four years before (1923). And yet it became the most influential book on architecture to date.”
    Lo interesante de este pequeño extracto que encontré en la memoria descriptiva del proyecto Galvani House de Christian Pottgiesser de architectures posibles en Arch daily (http://www.archdaily.com/17339/galvani-house-architecturespossibles/) es que por un momento uno se da cuenta de cómo nosotros actualmente pensamos –equivocadamente- acerca de cómo es que llego y se estableció el movimiento moderno como el sistema hegemónico de valores estéticos, materiales, productivos y económicos, y lo demás quedo inmediatamente atrás, sepultándose en inremediablemente en el olvido y sobretodo que lo demás que coexistía en ese momento no lucho por prevalecer. Es común asumir que no hubo fuerzas de igual magnitud pero operando en sentidos contrarios o por lo menos no en la misma dirección que buscaron impedir que el movimiento moderno se estableciera como el sistema hegemónico.
    La idea de que el movimiento pudiera habido fracasado es facinante… Y sobre todo pensar por un momento que las Beaux- Arts hubieran permanecido como el sistema de pensamiento hegemónico es por menos fuerte.
    Y es que muchas veces se discute que por la naturaleza de la maquina, la producción industrial y las diversas y complejas cosas que resultaron de ello fue inevitable el arribo y consolidación del racionalismo y con ello la ‘modernidad’. Pero haciéndole de abogado del diablo la verdad es que inclusive en México (siendo este un país periférico que no formaba parte de la metrópoli cultura del siglo XIX) de todas maneras se estaban realizando numerosos edificios de corte Beaux-Arts con materiales y componentes claramente industriales y modernos: perfiles metálicos, sistemas hidros-anitarios, concreto, etc.
    ¿Como hubiera sido entonces la ciudad de México del 2009 con casi dos siglos de arquitectura Beaux- Arts y sin un siglo de movimiento moderno? Aeropuertos y centros comerciales estilo Imperio, innumerables columnas de la independencia reproducidas por doquier, menos grises más pasteles; y los coches y la ropa con más encaja seguramente.
    Tal vez deberíamos de reflexionar por que el movimiento moderno como sistema (aunque sabemos que ha evolucionando y que ha cambiado: diversificándose con la globalización) aún responde en el fondo a las mismas inquietudes y como por lo menos en México no parece ser la mejor opción de camino a seguir en estos momentos de crisis y redefinición.
    Además en nuestro país, no sé si es nuestro espíritu guadalupano este tiene una cierta mística u aura religiosa, divina, que inclusive llega a la misma fe, en la cual se ofrece una falsa salvación, pues sabemos que es cada vez más reductivo, poco flexible, excluyente y hasta aburrido.
    Me fascinó este proyecto en su complejidad y sencillez, sus materiales, los espacios, sólo criticaría al muy estilo Beaux-Arts que a la fachada le falto búsqueda, desentona mal con el contexto.

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