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Ile Seguin-Rives de Seine: a major urban renewal project in the heart of Greater Paris, spread over 74 hectares on the site of the former Renault factories, including the Ile Seguin. At the heart of one of these 3 sectors, the “Trapeze”, sits Macro-lot A5, comprising a secondary school, due to be delivered in 2018 – block A – and 110 apartments along its southern edge – block B. This block comprises 110 flats for social housing on top of a 2-level underground car park.
On Rue Marcel Bontemps, four plots of white buildings, with clean, sharp lines, made to resemble the large mansions built by Baron Haussmann in the city centre, rising 7 storeys above the ground, create a deliberate effect. The interplay of the different roof openings, levels and the Mansard-style roofs break up the straight lines of the building frontage.
Their simplicity is underlined by an extravagant feature: between these spaces, broken up by fault lines, are a modern twist on the classical loggia. They take the form of an intricate mesh, combining vertical passages providing access to four apartments on each floor and one entrance/loggia per apartment. These towers are totems for the whole district, showing the importance of private outdoor space in the modern city by making them spectacular and fun.
As in the suburb of Plessis-Robinson and the little residential huts among the trees of the outdoor guinguette cafés of the early 20th century, you are brought back home by what has inevitably become the stand-out feature of the building. The unusual identity provided by these entrances/loggias which ensure privacy for their residents is achieved through the use of interwoven riveted aluminium: the softness of form, constructional strength and quality of the anodised metal: a number of allusions to the industrial history of the area without becoming mired in nostalgic reminiscence. The pure and simple joy of living here is revealed by the simplicity and quality of the building.
Behind this frontage, where it joins the future secondary school for plot A, there is another reference to the urbanism of Paris and this part of the city in particular: the private road, lined with family homes or the residential centre of the plot. Here, there are fifteen properties in an apartment block built over three storeys, plus lofts, offering a more secluded, quieter urban environment, enlivened by external loggia-type extensions which are partially open and private, with the spaces between them intricate wooden cladding which mirrors the cycle of light and shade throughout the day.
These two projects in the block are separated by a zig-zag pathway, interspersed with a scattering of silver birch trees. The buildings are connected by a porch on the eastern side, a connection which leaves 2 levels open. To reflect the introspective nature of the centre of the block, the garden is accessed via the corridors which cross Rue Marcel Bontemps. Cross over to reach the various different stairwells in the narrow building at the end of the plot. Surrounded on either side by these white-metal and wooden-clad architectural creations, the eye is continually drawn: to the sky revealed between the sloping roofs, to the alley running east-west and ending in the porch, to corridors and loggias which reveal glimpses of the road: despite its obvious and notable density, these windows allow the block to look out at its surroundings.
With quality internal and external spaces for everyone, a variety of architectural designs and many different types of apartments, it is a generous proposition for tenants on modest incomes. Overlooking the development, embedded in its surroundings, integrated into the site, the buildings of block A5b provide the residents with a cultural, aesthetic and local landmark, providing continuity of the wider project and a reflection on new social housing developments.