Dickens Apartment Date: 15 September 2011 Location: 1, Rue Charles Dickens, Paris, France Status: Completed Photographer: Christian Richters Corian screen/handrail: Ammar Eloueini with Marc Fornes Corian screen/handrail fabrication: Machineous, Los Angeles
A feature commonly found in the multi-family residential structures of Paris is the inclusion of attic living spaces on the top floor, utilizing the space inside the roof. This apartment renovation project included several of those small, adjacent rooms in the attic level, as well as a full apartment located on the floor immediately below them. Upstairs, the three independent rooms previously served as storage spaces, each connected to a common hallway. No direct connection existed between the two levels. Conceptual objectives for the renovation included creating amplified private and social experiences within the residence, as well as maximizing the potential of introducing a direct connection between the two levels.
Removing all walls between the storage rooms on the upper level provided the opportunity to create a master suite in that space. As a result of unifying those independent rooms, ample ambient light and variety of urban views characterize the new private retreat. Along one edge of the suite, a single bar of support spaces was created. Translucent vertical slots, with internal light sources, provide connections between the various service spaces. Large sliding panels provide a flexible, permeable barrier between the service bar and the bedroom space. Within the bedroom, the bathtub is conceived as a sculptural element appearing to be an extension of the white floor surface.
Space previously occupied by the master bedroom on the lower level was freed to become a spacious dining room, experienced as an extension of the social living space. The dining table, designed and fabricated specifically for this space, introduces the opportunity for a playful dialogue while anyone sharing a meal selects their seat. New circulation paths created through the downstairs renovation provide a more seamless flow between the social spaces, as well as an opportunity to create the transitional experience between the public space and the master suite.
An exploration of dematerialization in architecture was a source of inspiration for the staircase in the Dickens apartment in Paris. The massing of the stairs uses the logic of a solid and firm ground at the top and thinner, more ethereal massing at the bottom. The first step is less than 1" thick and flexes when a person steps on it. As one moves up the stairs each step becomes more firm and solid.
The same idea was carried out with the Corian screen that functions as a handrail and visual separation between the main living space and the stairs leading to the master bedroom. Based on a computer generated script, the pattern is more solid and opaque at the top and gradually dematerializes towards the bottom of the stairs. The aesthetic quality of the screen references ornament and its typical presence in Haussmannian Parisian apartments.
The Corian screen design also refers to notions of beauty concerned with ideas of the incomplete and unfinished. Like in some Eastern philosophies such as Wabi Sabi in Japan, the idea of imperfection and lack of finitude were a source of inspiration for the way the Corian screen was conceived and implemented. The relationship between the Corian screen and the steps was designed with the intention of creating an imperfection, and having this imperfection be a source of beauty.
Integrating oak and Corian together in this staircase allows it to bridge the two materials of the floors it is connecting. Oak was utilized for the underside of the stairs to reflect the existing wood floor in the living room on the lower level, and the upper face of each tread is finished with Corian to provide a transition to the Corian floor of the master suite above.
In 2012, this project received an Interior Architecture category Design Excellence Award (Award of Merit) from the AIA (American Institute of Architects) New Orleans Chapter.
In 2011, the stairs in this project received a Divine Detail category Design Excellence Award (Award of Merit) from the AIA (American Institute of Architects) New Orleans Chapter.