Perimeter block, cornerPerimeter block, courtyardPerimeter block, infill
Duée/Pixérécourt Low Cost Housing
Madec, Philippe | Paris, France | 1992-95
Image of Duée/Pixér...
Rue de la Duée Facade

ProjectDuée/Pixérécourt Low Cost Housing
ArchitectMadec, Philippe
CityParis
CountryFrance
Address11/13/15 rue de la Duée/22 rue Pixérécourt/3, passage de la Duée, 20th
Building TypePerimeter block, corner
Perimeter block, courtyard
Perimeter block, infill
Number of Dwellings21
Date Built1992-95
Dwelling Types1,2,3 & 4 BR flats; 3 BR maisonette
No. Floors5/6
Section Typepoint-access flats & maisonette
Exterior Finish
Materials
concrete, brick, ceramic tile, plaster, metal, wood
Construction TypeRC frame
Ancillary Servicesunderground parking (25 spaces), wall fresco by Jérôme Mesnager

This very complex site is located in a run-down working class district of the 20th arrondissement, in a diverse setting of disorderly streets and buildings from different periods. The lack of a coherent urban landscape is matched by an almost impossible site condition; a deep narrow sloping hillside with frontage on two streets, and abutting a chaotic assortment of buildings of different styles, heights, and alignments. The upper part of the site, along rue de la Duée is wider and bordered by a narrow passage on east side that is not perpendicular to rue de la Duée, several low buildings with different setbacks on the west, and faces a new public park across the street. The lower end of the site along rue Pixérécourt--a drop of about 10 meters--is a narrow infill condition between a newer 4-story apartment building and an older 5-story block of flats. This row of buildings facing Pixérécourt occurs at widening in the street formed by the intersection of two other diagonal streets. The program called for 21 dwellings of different sizes and types as well as on site parking for 25 cars.

Madec's site strategy is been to design two different 5-story buildings that are separate but partially interlock around two small landscaped gardens on the interior of the block. The upper building is ell-shaped in plan and has a wide planer surface facing south to rue de la Duée and the park across the street. The other leg of the ell extends along the passage on the east side of the site where the entrance lobby is located. The adjacent building sets back from the street and is only one story tall, so that the new façade facing rue de la Duée appears to be a freestanding rectangular block. The organization, materials, and details used in this façade dictate the stylistic parameters for this building as well as the surfaces of both buildings where they face the interior courts. The exposed edges of the concrete slabs form a dominant horizontal order in the bottom 4 floors. Here, floor to ceiling framed glass panels alternate with panels of horizontal red cedar siding and a regular grid of red cedar sliding louvers. This combination of exposed concrete, black framed glass windows, and the warm quality of the red cedar results in a dense, layered composition of mixed constructivist/vernacular origins. The building steps back above the 4th floor creating a terrace. This level is finished in vertical metal panels and windows and the dwellings have higher, shaped ceilings. The east wall along the passage is concrete except for a two-story high oblique zone of cedar blinds that is cantilevered outward creating a covered entrance area to the building. The setback at the 5th floor continues along this side. Mural figures by the artist Jérôme Mesnager create movement from rue Duée along the alley to the entrance.

The 5-story height of the building facing the lower street, rue Pixérécourt, basically lines up in section with the change in materials on the top floor in the Duée block. The mass of the Pixérécourt block is also terraced toward the courtyards and this, coupled with the interlocking quality of the courtyard spaces and a garden path connecting the two buildings, further reinforces a spatial relationship between rue de la Duée and rue Pixéxércourt. The stepped form also improves the natural lighting of the garden courts. The details of concrete walls, horizontal slabs, and infill walls of glass and red cedar are continued in the courtyard surfaces of both buildings. The rue Pixérécourt façade, however, suggests a totally different concept carried out with different materials and details. This infill situation between buildings of disparate heights, styles, and details is more the result of trying to make alignment and detail references to existing building to either side. The 5-story height and the zone of shops are continued in the new building. A trace of brick detail and vertical zones of rectangular windows continue the influence of the brick apartment building on the new façade. The height, materials, and color of the narrow, 4-story modernist building to the left are expressed in the new façade as a zone of elements aligning with this height, gray plaster walls, and a panel of black ceramic tile that references the central pattern of black tile on the other building. The two-story high space of the artist's studio at the top of the building further assists with the juxtaposition of dissimilar facades and makes a spatial response to the different heights of adjacent buildings. The use of these organizational and material quotes results in a layered composition of interpenetrating elements that carefully incorporates the materials, elements, and organization of other buildings along rue Pixérécourt. While the raison d'etre of the overall composition is a clear response to the elevational context, it is less clear as an indicator of the plan organization.

Reflecting the complex site plan and section, the two buildings contain a surprising range of dwelling types and sizes, including both flats and maisonettes. Although the rue de la Duée façade suggests four floors of flats, the bottom four floors on rue de la Duée façade are actually maisonettes that share a common circulation core with four floors of flats in the leg of the building that extends along passage de la Duée. The stepped back upper part of this building, is a zone of flats that have higher pitched or vaulted ceilings, and skylights in addition to small terraces and balconies along the east side. In the Pixérécourt building there are two large four bedroom flats on the two lower floors, changing to a two bedroom flat in the middle floor and the maisonette mentioned earlier on the top two floors.

The deep infill site has become an important housing typology in Paris in recent years. With the change in housing policies from a strategy of removal in the 1960's to one of gradual renovation in the last couple of decades, the extremely deep blocks of Paris have been a virtual quarry of challenging sites for creative architects. Programs like the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications program, for example, that combine new neighborhood post offices with housing for postal trainees (see Frédéric Borel, Oberkampf Postal Workers' Housing) are important models about building in ameliorative fashion on small infill sites. The scale of these projects does not compare with the huge social housing projects of previous years and the spirit of Existenzminimum that dominated earlier public housing programs has given way to a more flexible and tolerant attitude about the individual dwelling. Buildings with odd-shaped plans, apartments with unconventional rooms and windows, two story-high spaces, vaulted ceilings, skylights, and other similar unconventional spatial features were simply not part of the Existenzminimum lexicon of housing priorities. The atelier concept of the individual dwelling, however, still has an important tradition as a dwelling type in Paris, and projects such as this help provide a broader inventory of housing that, like the atelier type, is different and spatially interesting.

Techniques et Architecture, May, 1996, pp. 34-38.

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