Perimeter block, courtyardPerimeter block, infill
La Croix Nivert Social Housing
Furet, Catherine | Paris, France | 1995-98
Image of La Croix ...
Partial facade, rue de la Croix Nivert

ProjectLa Croix Nivert Social Housing
ArchitectFuret, Catherine
Addressrue de la Croix Nivert/rue Letellier (15th)
Building TypePerimeter block, courtyard
Perimeter block, infill
Number of Dwellings79
Date Built1995-98
Dwelling Types1,2,3,& 4 BR flats; rowhouses, some maisonettes
No. Floors3-7
Section Typeflats and maisonettes
Exterior Finish
ceramic tile, plaster, brick, metal windows and details, wood shutters
Construction TypeRC frame
Ancillary Servicesseveral shops, parking below grade for 111 vehicles

Between the time that the small apartment block on rue Gambetta was built in 1988, and the construction of her latest buildings in the large ZAC sites at Citroën and Rive Gauche, Catherine Furet designed several hundred dwellings on about 15 different sites scattered throughout Paris. These projects range greatly in size, from a few apartments at Gambetta, to over one hundred dwellings at Citroën Cévennes, and have been built on many different types of sites ranging from complex infill conditions, like the example shown here, to parts of large new redevelopment projects. Throughout this considerable oeuvre, the architect has maintained a consistent style and formal vocabulary of building forms, details and materials that makes general reference to Post Modern ideas that developed in Paris in the 1980's, and in particular, Henri Gaudin's Ménilmontant apartments of 1988.

This project was the result of competition to develop part of a typical Parisian îlot, the interior of which had previously been used for workshops. Involving two different infill sites facing different streets on the perimeter of the block, the program also included the design of housing in the long irregular parcel left over on the inside of the block. The infill sites on the perimeter were fairly straight forward party-wall conditions, but the interior of the block was much more complex involving strategies about how to increase the density while providing lighting access for existing dwellings, pedestrian access, and the design of public spaces.

Furet's solution to this problem was to design two buildings that complete the perimeter, one facing rue de la Croix Nivert and the other facing to another side of the block along Rue Letellier, and treat the interior of the block as a landscaped garden. A central paved walkway connects the perimeter buildings at each end of the garden. The infill buildings are designed to spill out into the space of the garden, however, three additional elements have been built in and along the edges of the garden defining one long central space and several smaller courts. These buildings on the interior of the block contain about one half of the dwellings required in the program. Most of these apartments are contained in two buildings that attach to the north edge of the garden area and have balconies and terraces that step to a landscaped area to the south. These buildings are thus rendered as partially freestanding elements that vary in height from 3-story townhouses, to the average 7-story height of the block.

Altogether, there are 7 discreet buildings containing 79 dwellings. With the exception of several townhouses in the garden, the buildings are typical point-access types that serve two or three dwellings per floor and contain a mix of apartment types different-sized flats and some maisonettes on the upper floors. The rue de la Croix Nivert façade is formed by two separate but organizationally interrelated buildings that are separated by a deep coulisse that frames a view of the interior of the block. The proscenium effect of the discontinuous street façade suggests a layered composition of receding spatial striations. The planar quality of the street façade, the individual casement windows, the expression of the zone of commercial spaces at the ground floor, and the vertical and horizontal divisions of the facades are all references to the existing buildings to each side that change in height from 4 on one side to 7 floors on the other. The geometric solid thus defined, however, has been plastically manipulated with the addition of projecting planes and convex surfaces, a continuous band of horizontal windows at the 5th floor, and a very controlled catalogue raisonne of windows that results in a complex, compressed, multi-layered composition. Furet employs a very sophisticated inventory of window types that mime the punch-out pattern of existing buildings but are all variations of 2 and 3 light types some with built-in balustrades, others with various operating panels and some with sliding wood shutters. The courtyard buildings have a more complex massing and here both accretive and deductive strategies have been applied in the form of recessed terraces, projecting inflected surfaces, balconies, and stepped terraces, cornices and other architectural details. The recessed black framed glass that is used in the zone of shops along the street is continued as a base of black glazed brick at the ground floor of the townhouses in the garden. Like Gambetta, the street façade is clad in ceramic tile while buildings on the garden are finished in plaster.

As the city policy of removing the îlot insalubre of Paris was replaced in recent years by a strategy of renovating blocks, there have been many more competitions and projects that involve the restoration not only of the block perimeter, but interventions to the block interior as well. Because the typical Paris block tends to be quite large, reconstruction of the block interior requires the design of difficult, irregular, and often long, narrow sites. A remarkable set of examples of this typology can be now be seen in Paris including Frédéric Borel's Belleville (1985-89) and Oberkampf (1999) sites, the Vandrezanne Apartments by Jean-Pierre Buffi (1988-90) and the most recent of the type by the Swiss team of Herzog & de Meuron, on rue des Suisses, (1996-2000).

Techniques et Architecture, Dec-Jan, 1999-2000, pp. 46-49.

Architecture intérieure crée, no. 291, 1999, pp. 126-129.

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