Great architecture resonates through conceptual and technical execution. Addressing theoretical and practical constraints, these projects challenge conventional building methods. A practice known for melding art, architecture and engineering, Renzo Piano Building Workshop has redefined a wide range of building types through conceptual rigor and elegant detailing.
As critic Ada Louise Huxtable once said, “Renzo Piano celebrates structure in a perfect union of technology and art.” Bridging craft and material logic in subtle ways, RPBW utilizes the latest construction techniques to create a rare humanism in the firm’s work.
Renzo Piano Building Workshop’s recent Paris Courthouse project embodies the firm’s approach to balancing conceptual ideas and technical execution. Sited on the northern edge of central Paris, the new law courts are built beside the Porte de Clichy to enable the judicial institution’s courtrooms and offices to be reunited in the same building.
The design is the largest law courts complex in Europe, and takes the form of a slim, transparent, 160m tower of stacked volumes. As a starting point for the rehabilitation and redevelopment of the neighborhood around the Porte de Clichy, the project is made up of a Pedestal, five to eight stories high, which integrates the lower part of the Tower. The Tower, which is set on top of the Pedestal, is made up of three superimposed parallelepipeds which hover above each other.
Built with an incredible double-skin façade, the Paris Courthouse has become a new gem in the city. Designed for luminosity, the project’s structure was made to ensure flexibility and to accommodate future requirements, including any changes in the way the justice system operates. The building has a double skin— an inner one of glass and metal panels, and an outer all-glass facade with an integrated shading system. Uncovering the crystalline envelope and its construction, we’re exploring the manufacturers that brought the elegant façade solution to light.
Manufactured by Schüco
The scale of the Paris Courthouse building is reduced by breaking it down into four stacked volumes of decreasing size. The tower is kept narrow to permit a high level of natural light and views out of windows manufactured by Schüco. The project’s double-skin facade features a vertical strip housing the panoramic lifts, which also opens up to views out over Paris. The Schüco products help meet sustainability goals through natural ventilation and careful attention to energy loads.
The building’s façades are fully glazed. On all three blocks of the tower, the east and west façades extend beyond the building, creating fine glass “frames” that increase the sense of lightness. Additional windows along the glazed façade overlook the forecourt, allowing natural light to penetrate to the heart of the building.
Fitted with parquet and steamed-beech-wood paneling, nearly all rooms all daylight to filter through the façades. Behind the courtrooms, the council chamber and the deliberation rooms are also fitted out in wood, and are visible from the outside through the glazed façade.
The building’s axis is aligned with the north-south diagonal of the adjacent Martin Luther King park, which anchors the Clichy–Batignolles urban development zone. As a result, the building’s southern façade faces Paris, while the north looks toward Clichy. The park’s diagonal line is strengthened by a “visual corridor” that continues northward up toward Clichy, running between the Courthouse’s east façade and the Maison des Avocats.
Glazing on the top three volumes of the tower extend beyond the façade. This was added to create the effect of transparency. The building is entered at ground-floor level via a piazza on the Avenue de la Porte-de-Clichy. Inside the first volume, the vast concourse is visible from the exterior through a clear glazed façade. The idea was to conceptually reinforce transparency and orientation throughout the building.
The project includes three atria with daylight pouring in from the glazed skylights in a roof terrace. Looking up from the ground floor, visitors can see glazed balustrades and the open structure of the building with a series of galleries bathed in natural light.
Manufactured by ISSOL
Integrated within the façade system are rows of photovoltaics to help meet the project’s sustainability goals. These combine with the project’s thermal inertia and rainwater collection to help set a new benchmark for energy consumption in tall buildings. Two vertical “spines” on the east- and west-facing façades link the three floating Tower blocks. On the east side, the spine is made up of both a succession of photovoltaic panels that line a fissure.
The west-facing spine is also made up of photovoltaic panels, but includes balconies with panoramic views, created as pleasant outdoor spaces. Vertical and horizontal photovoltaic panels line the east- and west-facing façades, creating a vibrancy accentuated by the light that reflects off them. They also demonstrate a desire to move toward using alternative energy in public buildings.
The Paris courthouse recently won France’s highest architectural honor, the Prix de l’Équerre d’Argent, and showcases how beauty can be created through concept and construction.