Abundant greenery on this site evokes the atmosphere of some of Paris' other verdant lanes and alleys - Rue des Glycines, Cour Saint-Pierre, Cour d’Alsace-Lorraine or Impasse du Moulin Vert – places that cultivate their treasures and hide their secrets. These narrow pedestrian streets, colonised by vegetation, create a feeling of protection from the city's aggressions, in the heart of the city and yet distanced from it. This comfort is a luxury. It opens up a different way of living in the relentless city, calmer, more serene, and with a closer relationship with nature, which in turn is given greater freedom. Our scheme aims to attune the project with its site and to enter into resonance with it in order to inhabit it meaningfully. In this spirit, to the south-west of the plot and in complement to the fully pedestrian lane, the project aims to create a planted extension, adding to the overall ambiance created by the existing planting. This is ensured by:
deep terraces as planted living spaces along the facade of the renovation;
planting the free space between the existing building and the new building;
integrating a landscaping project into the new building;
new rooftop planting.
A favourable south–west orientation, prospect guidelines that lead to a tiered geometry on the new building, the abundant greenery and atmosphere of the lane, all these factors favour and inspire research into indoor/outdoor extensions for the apartments. The architectural project is thereby constructed around the opportune meeting between the plants and the quality of user experience provided by external spaces for the apartments.
With regards the building to be renovated, we propose that the quality of its user experience be improved, as well as addressing the technical objectives for the envelope. We also propose that the existing apartments should benefit from an extra external space by means of a balcony running the full width of each floor on the Rue Haxo facade. This is wonderfully orientated south-west and gives open views over central Paris. This intervention, simple to achieve, improves user comfort for residents by providing a space for gardening, eating outdoors and sitting in the sun. It also provides the opportunity to update the facade with a contemporary architectural line – minimal, simple – to enhance the existing building and encourage the residents to appropriate the outside spaces.
The new building provides outdoor spaces for the apartments in the form of terraces resulting from the regulatory volumes. While the building to be renovated benefits from open views, the new building is confronted by the direct presence of numerous other residences because of the limited width of the Passage du Surmelin. In order to benefit fully from the terraces without disturbing or being disturbed by neighbours, the architectural project incorporates a continuous planter along the front of the facade, whose planting provides an efficient filter for direct views. The choice of material is the result of a quest for coherence and intensification of the abundant nature on the site.
On Rue Darcy, the new building has a more urban facade. It is composed of three strata that reflect the typological organization within the building. On the ground floor is the opaque, solid brick base of the car park; floors G+1 and G+2 are clad in broad, vertical timber, indicating single-level units and housing loggias; finally, on the two upper floors horizontal timber cladding marks the double-level units. The windows of the double-height sitting-rooms give remarkable plunging views down onto the Ménilmontant reservoir.
The building system envisaged uses a mixed timber–concrete structure. The slabs, stiffening walls and columns are in reinforced concrete cast on site in order to work around the complex forms of the urban fabric. These structures are, however, kept to what is strictly necessary. On the slab edges, the facades, made with an insulated timber frame and ventilated cladding, reduce loads onto the existing car park, whose load-bearing capacity is limited, and allow for the possibility of prefabrication. The envelope is in burnt wood, which is oiled and assembled in prefabricated panels.