Text description provided by the architects. A project of 34 housing units on an island site bordered by a gymnasium, a school and suburban housing, on avenue Henri Barbusse. In the background, low-cost housing from the 50s which will be demolished.
The challenge here for the lessor, the social organisation Immobilière3F, is to rehouse 34 families close to their old district but in a scenario of wholly revamped housing, the design for which was entrusted to the architects of atelier du pont.
Beyond the barrier there is a small group on a human scale, a 2-storey building + U-shaped roof with in the middle a court in the style of a 3rd Republic school yard or a farm courtyard. This looks onto 7 hundred-year-old plane trees, splendid «protected green spaces» which impart a «quiet and substantial» air to the whole and whose arrangement perpendicular to the road played a key role in atelier du pont’s decision to choose a layout based on a court and not on a street.
The project owes its image of a large house largely to its double pitched roof, which echoes the style imposed by the suburban architecture while revising it radically through the device of changing the look of the elevations to roof, eliminating all distinction between elevation and roof.
Urban and user-friendly at the same time, the building emphasises its two-way orientation, onto the court and onto the road, or again onto itself and onto the outside, through a white terracotta finish facing the road and on the exterior elevations of the U contrasting with a wooden look for the elevations facing the court.
Indoors, the desire to abandon large scale is reflected in the decision to develop 4 stair wells, as a result of which only 2 housing units can be placed on each landing, thus emphasising the «small living unit» aspect. All the housing units run crossways or face two ways, even the 2-room units. Each one has a view over the court; all the rooms and in particular all the bathrooms (except one!) are naturally lit.
The entrances are designed to be easily converted into small offices, thus taking into account changing lifestyles and family make-up. For each of the housing units there are wide external spaces (balconies or rooftop terraces), in a chequerboard arrangement to prevent the casting of shadows, so that meals can be taken in the open.
The living rooms are glazed, wide sliding windows providing natural light and maximum sunlight. Finally the communal parts are almost all naturally lit and painted in a monochrome of greens which contrast with the bright orange of the stairways. The choice of a simple quite compact shape without any frills has made it possible to emphasise the quality of the materials and their use. Exterior insulation and a generous provision of natural light mean that the building very easily achieves the Very High Environmental Performance grading, which was the aim of the client when the work was put out to tender.