Perimeter blockSlab, point-accessTowerUrban villa
Ilôt Schömberg
Lion, Yves & Alan Levitt | Paris, 4th, France | 1998
Image of Ilôt Schöm...
View of the complex along the Seine

ProjectIlôt Schömberg
ArchitectLion, Yves & Alan Levitt
CityParis, 4th
AddressQuai Henri IV/rue Agrippa de Aubignel/Boulevard Morland
Building TypePerimeter block
Slab, point-access
Urban villa
Number of Dwellings195
Date Built1998
Dwelling Typesstudio, 1,2 3 & 5 BR flats and maisonettes
No. Floors3,6,8 & 9
Section Typeflats and maisonettes
Exterior Finish
Construction TypeRC frame
Ancillary Servicesparking

This group of buildings occupies a very prominent site along Quai Henri IV, on the right bank of the Seine near the eastern tip of Ile St. Louis. Several of the 19th century barracks that housed a regiment of the National Guard still remained on the site at this critical intersection at the edge of the Marais, near the Porte del’Arsenale and the Canal Saint Martin that connects to Ledoux’s Rotonda and Parc Villette, and close to other important landmarks, Place des Vosages, Place de la Bastille, and the new Opera House. Yves Lion won a 1998 competition to redevelop the site and provide 128 new dwellings for the Republican Guard including some sports and office facilities. The brief was later revised to add 67 more dwellings that were to be put in three of the remodeled barracks. Several other buildings on the site were removed including one of the 4 remaining barracks that was damaged beyond repair.

Lion’s site strategy was to place a row of three 8-story connected towers along Quai Henri IV and add a long 6 story slab in a north/south alignment along the eastern edge of the site. This included a new access road and pedestrian walk connecting Boulevard Morland with the waterfront. This slab actually consists of a long element and a separate detached 8-story tower at the north end that make frontage along Boulevard Morland. These 5 buildings created a new boundary on the southern and eastern sides of the site, enclosing the group of remaining barracks and defining several interior garden areas and walkways connecting the buildings together. The barracks are beautiful examples of 19th century cast iron structures These three buildings form a quadrangular group that was originally defined by a 4th building but now opens to the tree-lined street along the west side of the site The original 3-story barracks were converted to apartments by substantially reorganizing the interiors including the addition of two floors to the tops of two of them

The three towers and the end of the north/south slab form a semi-detached group of 8-story towers along the waterfront. The towers are separated by garden areas, but connected at the first, third, and fifth, floors by recessed terraces. The resulting solid/void massing establishes a building edge along Quai Henri IV but forms gaps between buildings that allow views toward the river while admitting south light to the interior garden areas. The last block in the row is actually the end of the north/south slab that steps down in height to match the height of the existing building on the adjacent block to the east. These buildings step back at the top where there are penthouse maisonettes with roof terraces. The idea of creating a row of connected short towers along a waterfront or landscaped edge is a theme that was used in the mid-1990’s in ZAC (Zone d’Amenagement Concerté) projects at Bercy and Rive Gauche. Lion designed a pair of the street slabs at Bercy where towers are combined with the ends of slabs facing the streets to form a row of independent buildings along the edge of the park. Lion also used this concept of concatenated solid/void massing in another waterfront site facing the Bassin de la Villette along Quai de Seine (1991-96) where a point-access slab is expressed as flush individual narrow towers separated by recessed zones of balconies. In all of these examples the modernist archetypes of slab and tower are combined as an ameliorative strategy in certain edge infill situations.

The 3 towers are expressed as a row identical limestone blocks that are spaced to form small garden areas between towers and are connected along the back edge by a continuous veranda. The towers have very similar point-access plans that step back along one edge of these garden areas so that rooms along the sides enjoy a modest space that is separate from the street. Windows are organized as horizontal strip types detailed to emphasize the corners and the step-back. A very sophisticated combination of sliding, folding, roller blinds, and awnings protects the glass. The overhanging eaves mime the roofs on the existing barracks. The verandas that occur on alternating levels provide an ample outdoor terrace with an unobstructed view of the Seine between towers as well as views to the landscaped areas on the interior of the site. The flush limestone details of the street surfaces give way to wood finishes in the veranda areas. A pedestrian walk connects the building lobbies at grade and the entrances to small ground floor apartments which are set back a few feet from the street façade. The upper floors combine studios and 1, 2, & 3 bedroom flats and maisonettes and the penthouse maisonettes are larger dwellings with terraces front and rear. While the stone wall and mature trees along the sidewalk provide some protection as a landscaped edge, there is an obvious problem with noise and security for rooms facing the street and especially for the ground floor apartments.

The last element in the row of thin towers along the street is actually the end of the 8-story north/south slab that terraces to a 6-story height along the east side. Detailed as an extension of the street façade, the end is stepped to make height alignment with existing buildings along Quai Henry IV. A private access drive and parallel parking zone extends through the site from the river to the Boulevard Morland. This provides access to the underground parking in the slab, but also provides a needed connection along this side of the site. The north end of the slab block is actually a separate building like the remodeled barracks building and helps makes adjustment to the denser edge along Boulevard Morland. An open loggia toward the north end of the N/ S slab connects to the internal walk of the street towers and a small plaza area separates the slab from the north tower, providing access from the access road to the group of remodeled barracks. The slab is organized as a repeating point-access type with a flush wall along the east side and continuous balconies facing the garden on the west. The step back at the 6th floor provides a continuous terrace for the top dwellings. The tower on Morland uses a slightly less robust version of the riverfront façade: stepped back at the ground floor, overhanging eaves, flush limestone walls with strip and corner windows with blinds.

The original barracks, designed by the city architect, Joseph Bouvard in the late 19th century are three story cast iron structures with infill panels and spandrels of red brick, wood windows and overhanging eaves. The ground floor of these buildings is raised a few feet from grade resulting in an articulated base that is partially a recessed loggia finished in painted wood. One of the three barracks was more-or-less restored to its original condition with three of apartments, of generous heights, large windows and the construction of a central service core. In the other two, the interiors were gutted to provide 6 floors of apartments in a point-access, corridor arrangement using two vertical service cores. In order to get the required number of dwellings an additional two floors of apartments were added to the original structure, These two floors at the top are finished in gray metal panels, an overhanging roof, and windows that follow the vertical alignment of the original openings. While the internal arrangement and windows are different--now 5 floors in addition to the taller ground floor--the character of the original building has been respected. The quadrangular space defined by the original group of 4 barracks is quite different today because of the removal of the western building. Plans for this area seem to include only minimal landscaping and the overall site strategy of siting buildings to enclose space is conspicuously missing in this area.

Schömberg is a good example of the design of a combination of new building design and the adaptive reuse of historic monuments on a prominent infill site. While it does not compare in size with other major city projects such as Bercy and Rive Gauche, and is the product of housing designed for a particular group (the Republican Guards) and as such is hard to compare with the program of social housing in the ZAC sites, Schömberg is an important addition to the evolving urban concern in Paris with building in an ameliorative manner in the historic districts of the city. Schömberg combines historic and modern building precedents as well as garden and court typologies. The concept of combining slab and tower results in the spatial qualities of the urban villa type but in a taller denser configuration. Quai Henri IV is not a typical Paris boulevard, however, and while the river view is a highly desirable amenity, heavy traffic noise will always be a problem

AV Monografias 97, 2002, pp. 94-7

Aventures Architecturales á Paris: L'art Dans les Règles<./i>, Éditions du Pavillon de l'Arsenale, Picard Éditeur, Paris, 2000, (exhibit catalogue), pp. 200-203.

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