|Project||Boulevard Ney Studios/Apartments|
|Address||156-63 blvd. Ney (18th)|
|Building Type||Row house|
|Number of Dwellings||12|
|Dwelling Types||flats (9)/ duplexes (3)|
|Section Type||9 flats/3 maisonettes|
|Construction Type||RC frame|
|Ancillary Services||office space at grade|
Built along the northern edge of the Thier fortified zone, near Porte de Clignancourt, this modest project occupies a difficult leftover site facing a noisy boulevard on one side and a narrow cul-de-sac on the other. The extreme attenuation of the fractured triangular-shaped sliver of land (70 meters long and an average of 6 meters wide), the proximity of buildings of diverse size and style, and the frontage long Boulevard Ney at the edge of the zone peripherique present obstacles that make it somewhat of a miracle that anything at all was built here The overall massing of the complex continues the alignment and stepping form of existing buildings along Blvd. Ney which vary in height from the 14 story end of a 1960's slab to an eight story block adjacent to the 2 & 3 story houses facing Impasse Alexandre Lécuyer, an alley along the south side of the site. A long narrow plinth built to the area of the site provides a platform for a slender 8 story tower that backs up to the party wall of an older apartment building at the west end of the site. Three duplexes rest on top of this plinth as freestanding elements that are separated by small gardens, which also function as entrance courts connected by stairs to gates along the alley. The exaggerated linearity of the plinth which contains offices for a local association and two commercial spaces, is emphasized by the use of striated horizontal zones of material--dark stone, white plaster, galvanized steel--that are separated by continuous clerestory windows. Two deep plaster walls that align with the nonparallel edges of the site are cantilevered slightly forward of the virtual plane of the building facades and extend slightly beyond the ends of the platform forming a continuous datum connecting the tower and the platform supporting the duplexes. The striated quality is also expressed in plan as a deep zone of structure, circulation, and services along Blvd. Ney. This facade, because of its closed nature, serves as a barrier to the noise to Blvd. Ney.
Just as the platform and three duplexes and the bridge extending to the 3 meter-wide tip of the site express concepts of a horizontal order, the 9-story tower expresses a vertical order. The slender point-access block is entered by a narrow lobby at street level and contains 9 apartments. Continuing the graduated order of the platform, the tower steps from two duplex apartments at the second and fourth floors to three floors of flats above terminating in a roof terrace that is set back to meet the zoning requirements. In addition to the the duplexes, there is a small studio apartment on each of the lower four floors so that the facades on both Blvd. Ney and Alexander Lécuyer simultaneously express repeating floors of flats as well as the taller heights of the duplexes. The southeast corner of the tower is articulated with a zone of floor-to ceiling windows and balconies, while the other facades are quite closed; small strip windows for most rooms, and continuous vertical strips of narrow windows expressing the service zones in the building. Small balconies cantilever from the Blvd. Ney facade marking the position of the entrance halls at each floor. The concept of vertical striping is further developed by running the gray slate of the base of the platform vertically as an articulated reveal between the older building to the west and the new tower. Wrapping the same gray stone across the fascia of the roof terrace effectively ties platform, tower and terrace together.
The stepping concept from fourteen to eight to the three levels of the terrace duplexes continues the massing suggested by the site, but is also a maneuver to adjust the scale of the project to the smaller houses along the opposite side of Alexandre Lécuyer and to allow better light into this narrow street. The three duplex apartments,designed as three separate but repetitive dwellings have small terraces between and vaulted roofs and side walls of galvanized metal. The shaped metal roofs recall the traditional metal Parisian roofscape while the horizontal banding of the siding reinforces the horizontal spirit of the platform. These apartments are arranged with living spaces at the terrace level and bedrooms on the second level. The voids between units and the curved metal roof which has been justified as space for mechanical ventilation, effectively reinforce the plastic quality of these "villas", however, the inference of major spaces within the vaulted form is lost on the arrangement with living below, bedrooms above. The bridged connections between elements and, especially the bridge and stair at the western end, further the attenuated architectonic qualities of the ensemble.
Leboucq's design may be seen as a diminutive version of Pierre Patout's Boulevard Victor apartments of 1934 a similar experiment with building on an impossibly narrow site. Patout's masterpiece also had the same kind of stepping mass, a plinth of commercial spaces, exaggerated horizontal striations, gradation from bottom to top, and articulated villa/maisonettes at the top. Even the entrance to the Ney tower is similar to Blvd. Victor; a lobby so narrow that a view out the opposite side of the building is a dominant part of the entrance experience. The white planar quality, strip windows, balconies and terraces all recall a modernist Parisian legacy of forms and details. The appliqué nature of panels and materials, the use of curved standing-seam metal sheeting on the duplexes, and the absence of a dominant structural persona are features consistent with other Parisian housing design of the 1990's
Aventures Architecturales à Paris; L'art dan les régles, Éditions du Pavillon de l'Arsenal, Picard Éditeur, Paris, 2000, pp. 192-97.