|Architect||Dusapin, Fabrice & Francois Leclercq|
|Address||5 rue de Bellièvre, 13th|
|Building Type||Slab, gallery access|
|Number of Dwellings||44|
|Dwelling Types||studio, 1 BR flats|
|stone, metal, plaster|
|Construction Type||R-C frame, masonry walls|
|Ancillary Services||concierge apt. & several parking spaces|
Built at the same time as the Ministry of Finance headquarters just across the Seine at Pont de Bercy, these apartments were designed to house unmarried Ministry staff. At that time, the site was a very dilapidated îlot at the edge of the warehouse and industrial areas that serviced Gare d'Austerlitz and port facilities along the river. The site was part of a narrow perimeter block that included some dilapidated older apartment buildings on one side, a 6-story youth hostel on the other, and a 1930's HLM housing project across the street. The design received the Moniteur Grand Prix for the first building by a young firm when it was finished in 1987; a prize-winning pristine gem albeit built in a very marginal setting. Two years later Dominique Perrault won the design for the new Bibliothèque de France, and the city's Rive Gauche plan for the 13th arrondisement along this side of the river was adopted in 1991. The library was finished in 1997 and Rive Gauche construction continues between the Pont de Tolbiac and Gare d'Austerlitz, a vibrant new community being built above the tracks that will completely transform the original desolate conditions of rue Bellièvre. The apartment building north of the site has already been renovated, and a new office complex is being built at the end of rue Bellièvre, part of the new commercial development along Boulevard de France that will connect to Gare d'Austerlitz.
The building is articulated as two, unequal blocks that are connected by open rear access galleries, but are separated by a small entry courtyard. The northern block aligns with the 8-story height of the adjacent apartment building while the southern block picks up the height of a lower existing building along the street. Both blocks contain small studio and one bedroom flats that face the street. This organization is expressed in the street facades and both buildings share similar details: flush strip windows and a regular grid of stone facing panels. The connected but disconnected quality of the two blocks is further developed with subtle details. The street surface of the taller element is deflected in toward the courtyard as though to receive the stepped end of the lower element. The partial terrace and vertical zone of recessed balconies and vertical glass where the new building abuts the existing building to the north, make critical references to the context. The stepped massing of the lower building is further developed by stepping the façade at the 4th floor creating a narrow terrace for the top apartments as well as two narrow vertical strips of glass facing the courtyard affording views of the river. A marble wall along the sidewalk defines a common visual plinth uniting both slabs that are detached slightly from the top of the wall. The concierge apartment and parking for several cars are located in this service plinth as well as an entry gate that leads to a tiny triangular courtyard. Here a walk aligned with the oblique surface of the building connects with the elevator lobby and a diagonal stair leads up to the first level gallery. The south-facing zone of galleries at the back looks upon a narrow landscaped courtyard on the interior of the block and the roofs of adjacent buildings. A single spiral stair and partial canopy on the lower building and the open balustrades of the gallery reinforce the idea of the gallery as a connecting element. The very plastic quality of the rear facades contrasts sharply with the flush, planer quality of the street facades. A typical floor contains 8 flats with tiny studios along the gallery and a one bedroom dwelling at each end.
The site and architectural themes developed here, detached but connected, orthogonal versus oblique, the creation of a common courtyard, and the idea of an articulated base are all themes that the architects applied again in the postal housing project on rue Lauriston in 1993. While the rue Bellièvre apartments seem to have suffered from detail and maintenance problems with the stone and concrete and the small minimally equipped apartments have not been fully occupied, this is an interesting model of alternative housing and is an ingenious solution to building in a difficult infill condition.
Matzig, Gehard, Andrea Gleiniger & Sebastian Redecke, Paris Contemporary Architecture, Verlag Prestel, Munich, 1997, pp. 144-7.