Perimeter block, courtyardPerimeter block, infillSlab, point-access
Rue des Suisses
Herzog, Jacques & Pierre de Meuron | Paris, France | 1996-2000
Image of Rue des ...
View of garden side of Rue des Suisses infill block seen along the garden slab.

ProjectRue des Suisses
ArchitectHerzog, Jacques & Pierre de Meuron
Address17/19 Rue des Suisses/Rue Jonquoy, 14th
Building TypePerimeter block, courtyard
Perimeter block, infill
Slab, point-access
Number of Dwellings57
Date Built1996-2000
Dwelling Types1,2,3 & 4 BR flats, two town houses
No. Floors3,7
Section Typeflats
Exterior Finish
metal, glass, concrete, wood
Construction TypeRC frame
Ancillary Servicesbasement parking

This is the first project in Paris by the Herzog/De Meuron team on an unusual site in the 14th Arrondisement not far from Gare Montparnesse. The result of a 1966 competition sponsored by the Paris public housing agency Régie Immobilière de la Paris (RVIP), the project is built on three interconnected parcels that include infill sites on two sides of a long perimeter block that face a long narrow plot on the interior of the block. The infill buildings are built to the neighborhood height of 7 floors, while the interior slab is only 3 floors in height. Entry to the interior of the block is made beneath the infill buildings. In addition to the 4 story difference in building height, the long narrow block designed as a free-standing element in a long narrow garden and is protected with curving rolling wooden blinds that are in sharp contrast to the folding metal blinds that cover the facades of the street buildings. The three buildings contain about 60 flats and basement parking for about 50 cars is provided beneath the infill block on Rue des Suisses and extends into the courtyard beneath the interior building.

The street buildings are both point-access types. The larger block facing Rue des Suisses has several apartments per floor that face either the street or garden while the narrow block on Rue Jonquoy has only one flat per floor with frontage on both the street and the garden. The long narrow building is also a point access type that has several entrances that serve three floors of larger flats. The ground floor apartments are organized with the living spaces and bedrooms facing a narrow porch along the public walkway through the garden and a narrow one story high zone that contains the baths and kitchens that attaches to the back side of the long block forming small interior courtyards. Baths, kitchens and circulation are organized along the rear side of the flats on the two upper floors. Living spaces here also open to the continuous balconies that face southwest. Two, two story high gable-roofed small houses are placed in the garden opposite the two main entrances to the long block. These tiny cottages also form several court areas in the garden and help maintain a residential scale to the arrangement on the interior of the block. Vines grow on a system of metal wires fastened to the blank walls of the garden buildings, help to create an overgrown, unkempt ambience to the landscape areas. The garden block sets up slightly from the ground on an articulated base suggesting a porch or veranda along the walkway through the garden area. The roll-down blinds completely cover the porch areas. While there is an obvious loss of privacy along the ground floor apartments, the slightly raised setback condition gives some separation from the garden walkway. The upper balconies cantilever out slightly forming an undulating, slightly overhanging quality that further softens the garden spaces.

The 7 story, point-access block facing Rue des Suisses has undulating facades facing both the street and the interior garden. The curved facade, which is seen at the end of a long narrow street, makes an easy transition between existing buildings to either side but also emphasizes the system of metal shutters covering windows between floor slabs creating a continuous screened surface. This system of folding grilles is used on both street and garden facades and is the latest version of similar shuttering systems that have become a leitmotif of Herzog & De Meuron designs. When closed the shutters form a continuous grille between the narrow horizontal bands of the edge of the floor slabs that are the same color as the shutters. The full-height, hinged shutters are made of perforated, corrugated aluminum panels that are supported by steel rods connecting between floor slabs. These panels, 412 mm in width (16") and 28 mm (1 1/8") thick, are secured to the vertical support rods with stainless steel hinges and are finished in a durable dark gray, polyester powder coating. A narrow balcony and steel balustrade separate the plane of shutters from the floor to ceiling glass wall of the apartment interiors. In the fully open position, the shutters hinge into groups of 6 panels that extend forward of the surface of the façade creating discontinuous vertical bands that give a highly structural albeit chaotic appearance to the façade and help create the impression of several compressed layers of materials: shutter, balustrade, the space of the balcony and the dark aluminum glass wall of the dwellings. This shutter system extends from the sidewalk through the 6th floor. The top floor sets back from the plane of the façade and has roll-down metal blinds of the same color that reinforce the reading of a distinct attic condition.

Rue des Suisses is a good example of recent projects in Paris that focus on rebuilding the typical perimeter blocks in different areas of the city while upgrading the quality of the housing stock. While the apartments themselves are typical small flats, the strategy to put the smaller flats in the infill buildings and organize the family dwellings together in the garden area and the high detail finish of all three buildings attest to the high standards of RVIP. The sophisticated shuttering system used here combines the traditional use of the window shutter as a means to control light and provide security and privacy with the need to adapt the modernist concept of the glass curtain wall with the contextual need to fit comfortably with an existing stock of different buildings. While the street facades undulate in plan and have a vertical, folding shutter system made of metal, the garden block has a south façade that undulates in section and has a horizontal, roll-down wooden shutter system. Finally, a sheer glass façade might have been a harsh intrusion, but the undulating, layered, shuttered system maintains the wall surface while creating a changing pattern of distinct, repetitive openings like the neighboring buildings.

Monteur architecture AMC, June-July, 2001, pp. 50-61.

Aventures Architecturales à Paris, Editions du Pavillon de l'Arsenal, Picard, Paris, 2000, pp. 174-79.

Jackson, Sarah, "Elevating The Everyday", Architectural Review, July 2002, pp. 42-49.

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