These 36 social-housing units are located in Montreuil’s "Bel Air" neighborhood (near Paris) on ground that borders very different urban forms. To the north is a 4-story, architecturally poor apartment block recently renovated, and to the south lie single family homes low in height and rather heterogeneous in appearance. The site nevertheless enjoys a direct view of the verdant Parc des Beaumonts to the West, and it looks out over the neighborhood because of a newly created roadway that runs alongside it. This lack of coherence and the few advantages challenged us to create a new urban form in this suburban landscape which continues to suffer a certain sense of feeling hemmed in, but which is just asking to come out of its shell. The implantation of the project’s volumes face mostly to the south, breaking with the uninspiring, monotonous image of the surrounding apartment blocks and avoiding any frontal relationship with them. Although it remains aligned with the streets, the building’s fragmented morphology counterbalances this formal rigidity and asserts a new way of living for the neighborhood. It extends the vernacular cityscape of the nearby houses by interweaving built and planted spaces and by encouraging pedestrian traffic through the block.
This project consists of three constructions tied to one another by a series of footbridge-gangways to form a single building. The central construction contains the main lobby and the vertical circulations, which horizontally distribute the two constructions to the side. This is a different way of coming home: one moves from the inside to the outside, from a gangway to a patio. On the 3rd floor, the duplexes in the buildings that sit along the street have been designed as houses that one accesses from an outdoor patio.
Subject to the rough challenge of the existing urban fabric, this small collective holds its own and asserts itself very gently, imagining the private portions and usages with activism. Access to the housing units is made in small groups of 3 to 4 flats, which creates a sense of closeness among the neighbors as well as a more personal appropriation of the space. The private balconies meld into the building’s volumes, which engenders a certain intimacy while avoiding casting shadow areas on the lower levels and opening up views onto the city as well as the park.