Perimeter block, infill
Lauriston Postal Housing
Dusapin, Fabrice & François Leclercq | Paris, France | 1993
Image of Lauriston ...
Facade along rue Lauriston

ProjectLauriston Postal Housing
ArchitectDusapin, Fabrice & François Leclercq
CityParis
CountryFrance
Address71-75 rue Lauriston, 16th
Building TypePerimeter block, infill
Number of Dwellings41
Date Built1993
Dwelling Typesstudio, 1 & 2 BR flats
No. Floors7
Section Typeflats
Exterior Finish
Materials
RC, limestone, granite, slate, steel, wood ceilings, glass
Construction TypeRC frame
Ancillary Servicespost offices, parking

This pair of small buildings were built as part of the French Postal Service program to provide housing for postal trainees in Paris (see Oberkampf Postal Workers for a description). Since 1990, over 1500 small flats have been built under this program on small sites in different arrondissements in the city. Neighborhood post ofices were often included in the planning of these facilities. Typically, young firms were commissioned to design these buildings which were usually located on infill sites in run-down areas of the city, but were intended to provide interesting and innovative apartments for young postal workers.

The site on rue Lauriston is an infill situation in an irregular Paris block not far from the Arc de Triomphe. A narrow passage, perpendicular to rue Lauriston, cuts through the interior of this block and intersects the site where it fronts rue Lauriston. The elevation of rue Lauriston is about 15 feet above the level of the passage so that the intersection of the two streets involved a considerable grade change between the two levels To further complicate the geometry of the site, buildings facing rue Lauriston, were not orthogonally aligned with buildings along the passage so that the intersection was also the point of juxtaposition between two non-parallel grids. A steep flight of stairs connects the lower street with the upper level (at this writing a wall separates the two). But part of the site requirements was to continue the space of the passage to Lauriston and provide a clear pedestrian connection between the two levels. Instead of building continuously along rue Lauriston and providing closure to the surface of the street?the logical choice of any typical infill condition--a compelling image of the finished project here is that it is seen as two sculptural objects at the end of the allée-like space of the passage, that it forms a gateway between upper and lower levels. The space between the two objects is defined as a public plaza, an atrium for the post office functions taking place along and inside the buildings to each site, and a terrace overlooking the passage below that affords distant views to the east across Paris. Thus two separate 7-story buildings are used to fill the gap along Lauriston; each attached to the party wall to each side. The westerly building continues the alignment of other buildings facing Lauriston while the easterly building is skewed to align with the axis of the passage. Because of the open space between buildings, they thus appear to be partially freestanding. The resulting deflected surface along Lauriston suggests an entrance situation but, because the two buildings have the same height, materials and details, the street facades are perceived conceptually as a continuous surface. A connecting bridge between the two buildings at the second floor adds to the impression of unified but disparate elements, physically detached; spiritually connected. The effect of the non-parallel sides of the plaza creates a forced perspective view of the townscape below and beyond.

The new buildings follow the basic zoning of other buildings along the street: a commercial base, several floors of apartments that more-or-less align with a common cornice height with roofs and terraces stepping back above this level. This upper and lower division of the facades is a highly developed architectural theme at Lauriston that is related to the plaza notion and the spatial development of the section. While light colored smooth finished limestone, rendered as a thick wall with small openings, is used in the residential floors, a much more elaborate choice of materials and details is used to express the plaza datum. Post office functions occupy the ground floor of each building and this is expressed with a continuous, exposed steel beam at the base of the limestone wall, black granite paving, rough cut dark gray slate walls, frameless, floor to ceiling glazing, that turns in at the corners creating small recessed porches at the post office entrances, exposed structure that is expressed as round plaster columns, black metal framing, the bright yellow elements of the postal service, the signs, ATM, and mail drop devices, and varnished wood in the ceilings of the plaza spaces. This generally dark base contrasts sharply with the upper walls, but includes as well, an additional set of architectonic elements: the building mail boxes and entry, a stair to the upper terrace of the western block the bridge between buildings at the second floor and the open pilotis space beneath the eastern block (again rendered with round plaster columns) where the ramp connects to the parking area beneath the plaza.

Each block is a small point-access tower with three dwellings per floor, a combination of small studio and one bedroom flats. The mail boxes and entrance lobby for both buildings is in the eastern block along the side of the plaza. The lobby has connection to the parking level and connects to the western block above grade via the bridge. Thus the terraced garden on the south side of the western building is accessibly by residents from both buildings. A key-access exterior stair also connects from the plaza to the terrace level. The plan organization of the towers is clearly expressed on the exterior by the use of three different types of windows. Bedrooms and kitchens typically have a tall narrow recessed window with an integrated exterior balustrade. This type which can function as a small balcony, is also used in the living spaces in conjunction with a large square window that is glazed flush to the exterior but with the same balustrade railing inserted inside the glass. This window functions as a small solarium and is often filled with plants. A third window, a horizontal strip type, installed as a flush exterior type, is is used in south-facing rooms as a clerestory. The combination of recessed and flush exterior glass emphasizes the thickness and surface qualities of the limestone wall and results in a varied and dynamic, layered composition.

The apartment building designed by Dusapin and Leclercq for the Ministry of Finance in 1988 on rue Bellièvre is an important precedent for the rue Lauriston buildings and the two projects share many architectural concepts, detail features, and materials. The notion of two separate prismatic elements used to complete the infill gap in a perimeter block, one with a deflected surface suggesting entrance and creating a vibrant tension between elements and the implied plane of the street surface and the depth of the public court formed between buildings is similar quality of each project. Other shared features include the idea of the stone plinth, a stair to the second level, and the use of an elementary kit of window types applied so that the wall is dominantly stone. The commercial use, missing at Bellièvre is a much more developed feature of Lauriston, but both projects are examples of an intriguing variation of the infill building type.

Tecnhiques et Architecture, Nov. 1993, pp. 61,66.

Le Moniteur Architecture, AMC, Dec. 1993, pp. 66-67.

Le Moniteur Architecture, AMC, May, 1993, pp. 32-33.

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