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23 April 2016


« Cities can be beautiful and graceful even when they lack sumptuous buildings. Nevertheless, One has to admit that a beautiful city, is first and foremost, a work of beautiful architecture. »

Francesco milizia (1781) The principles of civil architecture

Housing is the stuff of cities. It nourishes their memory and identity, it draws their form, and it defines their density. Housing projects represent the most visible link between architecture and a city’s character, and they reinforce the binary relationship between constructions and the evolution of the urban fabric. Each new housing project asks as many questions about the present as it does about the future and urbanness in general. In such a context with often very marked constraints, one has to preserve the power balance between urban foundations and functional needs, between a plan’s volume and its spatiality, and between language and history. The result of this contrast becomes the project’s raison d’être.

Our firm engages in this type of research by using a strategy of hybridization and transfer that articulates itself at each stage of the design process. This involves contaminating the established forms inscribed in our collective memory with new values that have an exponential potential. History teaches us that urban development has always obeyed a logic rooted in geography, sociology, climate, economic development, cultural expansion, and many other domains, and that a construction’s typology has always reacted to these conditions. The interpretation of a type and the analysis of a form allow for an extrapolation of a whole set of information that represents a veritable abacus of possibilities for an architect. Innovation has more than ever become the result of combining existing phenomena, a process that gives rise to new phenomena.

Each one of the firm’s projects testifies to the different stages of this process. From typology to usage to climatic design or the definition of the style and formation of its elements, architectural experiences are more and more likely to migrate from one situation to another and thereby to acquire a new meaning. For example, the Bègles housing units create synthesis based on a combination of parking area, single-family home, and collective housing. Their ample loggias invent a new climatic model halfway between the over-insulated Nordic model and the architecture of the Mediterranean patio. The Neue Terrassen participatory housing project was inspired by an urban typology characteristic of Hamburg that was adapted for the automobile to thus help it evolve. In Clichy-Batignolles, the vocabulary of offices and flexible structures from the 1970s met up with the grand principles of Haussmann. In Clichy, an artist’s participation in the façade helped reconstitute a collective memory that had been forgotten over time.
This process of contamination thus adds a multitude of layers: urban, climatic, typological, usage, and linguistic. Their parameters change depending on the site and type of project. The projects are enriched by the sites’ histories as well as their future potential. The reasons underlying the housing units built in the last forty years no longer make sense. We need to analyze from the get-go how the architectural project makes the city, and at the same time we need to change the ways we live to introduce a new, more sustainable narrative.