Text description provided by the architects. The Paul Bourget neighborhood has long been a « terra incognita » of the ParisianThe Paul Bourget neighborhood has long been a « terra incognita » of the Parisian cityscape. To the outside it is a citadel hanging above the tumultuous traffic on the « périphérique » ring expressway and the swirling canopy of the Kellerman Park. Inwards it’s a modest piece os post-war urban planning boom, introverted and peacefully forgotten. With a striking sense of community, so close and yet so distant from the hustle of the nearby Porte d’Italie. Do we know of other places in Paris where residents seem to come « out of the woods » to enter the city ?
Looking like two gentle urban « Totoro » figures, the project stands on the site of a previous building scrapped down after it caught fire. It sets the mood for the gradual uplifting of the whole area around a central garden opening on the beautiful western horizon ranging above the Kellerman Park towards the Charlety stadium.
Most of the apartments enjoy this breathtaking metropolitan view, extending to spectacular balconies suspended in mid-air. They also benefit from features bringing extra comfort to everyday life that required cleverness and perseverance to fit inside the dense tower blocks required by the urban masterplan: living rooms are larger than asked by the client and true closed kitchens, large landings offering sunlight and views to the outside, and real wood flooring in all apartments. Because social housing is not « all in the façade » architecture !
To break the built mass each block is split in two to form four pavilions marked by the sharp contrast of their outer skin materiality.
Facing the west: a dress of stainless steel reflecting in the urban skyline atmospheric variations of rain, blue and gray skies or flaming sunsets. The perforated patterns of the steel plates play an active part in breaking down the loud humming of the expressway and its reverberation towards public space. Towards the central garden, fluted larch façades bring the vibrating, sensitive and intimate scale of wood.
Cut volumes generated by urban rules, topped by Totoro’s ears. It looks a bit like a city drawn by children … This instantly familiar and rambunctious world is highlighted by the double-height community hall and its cozy garden, strategically set at a corner next to a small square. A Place long awaited by the neighboring residents to create a mixed-generation social hotspot around various activities ranging from art studio to cooking, NGO meetings and gardening.
No show off, but the patient turning of programmatic, codes, site and cost constraints into strong statements serving quality of life and pride in a rising anew neighborhood.