Collaborators: Christophe Ouhayoun & Nicolas Ziesel, Jean-Francois Laurent
The project is located in an old working class borough in the north of Paris on a deep and narrow plot.
Existing constructions were in a very poor condition. Yet the brief asked for the preservation of the building on the street to retain it’s picturesque spirit, and there was a feeling that there had been a rich and dense social life here that inspired us.
Our first objective was to create a generous garden, opened to the south. It is on the natural path of the inhabitants and acts like an intermediate space between the street and the intimacy of one’s home. All the apartments living rooms are opened on it , to connect oneself to this small piece of urban nature and to connect neighbors together.
The existing building on the street side is totally revamped to accommodate apartments answering today’s living standards. It also wins a double height porch to allow views to the garden from the street, and - more opportunistically - to provide access during construction of the new building along the garden.
The main feature of this new part is to be 100% in wooden construction. A strong conviction on our part as this materials combines incomparable ecological and aesthetic benefits. But quite a feat in a country were all regulations and builder habits revolve around concrete construction! From ground to roof we had to invent new solutions to solve structural, acoustic or fire issues. A sort of high tech use of a low tech material, bringing the overall environmental performance to exceed by far current standards.
But even if wood building requires a high degree of discipline and stringency the playful rhythm of the plug-in wood boxes that punctuate the facade disrupt the rational constructive order, and give the place a spontaneous character. The boxes aleatory position make the layout of each apartment unique and allow for different uses, from their official bedroom function to SHOHO spaces or gym room! Small courtyards at the rear of the building provide private gardens at the ground floor and help us bring natural light in all the bathrooms to add extra comfort and a house-like quality of life.
The very graphic laying of the wooden cladding further fragments the perception of the built volume, gives a very quiet tone and values the sensuous presence of the rough natural wood. It helps to blend architecture with the garden and it’s undulating wooden path and terrace, floating around delicate trees and a prairie of wild flowers. Thus making our garden a sort of open air room, welcoming to the small community of inhabitants. It ultimately states that social housing can still be the place to promote small scale sensitive utopias of well being and pride.