This mixed-use building with 30 housing units for young workers and offices for Patronage Laïque, a guardian association in Paris’ 15th arrondissement, is a recently delivered project by the MAB+LAPS team for the RIVP Régie immobilière de la Ville de Paris.
Located on the corner of Avenue Felix Faure and rue Tisserand, the building sits in the varied environment of the Boucicaut development zone with its orthogonal buildings and Haussmannian vestiges which dot this neighbourhood with industrial accents. Occupying the typical Parisian street-corner lot, the building marks the neighbourhood with its luminescent front facade day and night.
A Mediterranean Response
Patronage Laïque was historically located on this plot on Avenue Felix Faure; by 2010, it became clear that the offices were unfit for purpose. The RIVP called for a design competition for a new building that was to house not just the original program but also 30 studio apartments for young workers. The competition was won by a team composed of two young architecture firms, MAB and LAPS. Their holistic approach highlighted the relationship between city and public space by establishing a strong bond and continuity with the interior of the plot, placing the accent on its public facility character by offering an identifiable landmark.
The proposition fosters user-friendliness by creating generous meeting places and favouring an opening onto the city. It responds to the project management’s desire to underscore the accessible and populist nature of this place in order to maintain proximity to its residents.
Two programs in one envelope
The building succeeds in extending several distinct levels while remaining in the same envelope, integrating two identities in a principle of uniqueness; the public program of Patronage Laïque and the private housing units.
The public facility and the housing enjoy two distinct entrances. The Patronage opens wide onto Avenue Felix Faure and rises one storey from the ground floor. Its glassed-in atrium extends the public space within the building while enabling neighbours and the passers-by to glimpse at activities happening in the building. The residence has a more discreet side entrance on rue Tisserand and extends from the second storey to the fifth.
The ground-level entrance on Avenue Felix Faure anchors the facility to the ground and the neighbourhood, endowing it the same informal, homely presence of a corner cafe. Up above, two recessed facades rise on either side of a high gap that looks down on the glass ceiling over the entrance lobby.
This signpost for the project is treated in translucent white glass with opalescent reflections. The 4-storey facade along rue Tisserand is treated in glazed concrete, the metallic reflections of which wed with the interior glazing. Its cadence is established by rectangular windows of varying dimensions and a recessed volume creating irregular modules.
Light is one of the project’s key components. The lobby’s surfaces take a majestic turn with light penetrating from overhead and from the sides. A choice that is even more pronounced at night when the back-lit facades of the building’s prow make the facility look like a magic lantern. A hallmark for the neighborhood and a benchmark on the avenue.
Patronage Laïque – An enclosed public place
Patronage Laïque’s reception is conceived like a covered public space. The program is housed on the ground floor, the technical mezzanine and the first floor all of which are articulated around the double-height atrium. This generous open space and hallways spoke off the lobby and have been designed to be occupied in a personal and informal way by users outside of the activity’s constructed framework. Giving more than what is demanded by the program in order to foster encounters between users is a way to conserve the important social strength and identity of this place which is above all friendly and generous. On both the ground floor and upper floor these buffer spaces are given over to the collective imagination.
Beyond the computer area and cafeteria on the ground floor is the space of the multi-purpose hall, a space for entertainment with a stage, a control booth, dressing rooms and a small backstage.
This space is designed as a genuine “box” in the project’s larger “box” and as such enjoys optimized acoustics. Its walls are lined with light, grooved acoustic wooden panels that bathe the hall in a warm atmosphere. The hall is composed of two colours: light-coloured panels for the flooring and stage, and darker tones for the balcony and control room. Stored under the stage, seats slide into the hall on rails, a very compact set-up enabling multiple uses (neighbourhood get-togethers, teas or buffets, ballroom dance floor, etc.) and an increased capacity for adding more seats if needed.
On the first floor the program includes numerous activity rooms and Patronage’s offices. A patio provides natural light to the art room and the floor’s access hallway. Finally a large room with warm tones offers space for dance, yoga and low-impact gymnastics.
The young workers’ residence hall
With its additional spaces, one of the project’s strong suit lies in its southern exposure from the plot’s inner courtyard. Offset from the plot’s boundary, the building frees up a patio at the heart of the block. Instead of a blind gable end–a sad vis-à-vis for the neighbourhood–the neighbours are offered a facade of access balconies, sometimes open, sometimes opaque. The access balconies that serve the three dwelling levels weave their way in the open air with the architects avoiding the pitfall of a poorly lit service hallway.
The living units combine a working wall (storage, kitchen, and office) and naturally lit and ventilated bathrooms. Generous operable glazing animates the studio space, the floor areas of which vary from 19 to 23 square meters. A community terrace on the building’s fourth floor overlooks Paris and dominates the preconceived ideas of joint ownership in social housing, whilst circumventing the prospect rules makes it possible to offer each unit a private terrace. With the Eiffel Tower visible in the distance, this ambitious, radical building serenely proclaims that the story of night-lit state-funded buildings is not over. And that in the 21st century they can be lived in.
Location: Paris 15ème, France
Type: Housing – Public
Program: Multi-purpose Association Facilities and a 30-unit low-cost housing
Area: 1834 m2
Delivery: Mars 2014
Client: Régie Immobilière de la Ville de Paris
Architects: MAB Arquitectura + LAPS Architecture
Photos: Luc Boegly