A Parisian highlight

Nick Myall
Tuesday 21 Jun 2016

Rich and dark colours give this project a lively look and project colour upwards from nearby trees

This project in Paris makes the most of a difficult plot and involved input from three French architects, 2/3/4, Jacques Moussafir and Manuelle Gautrand Architecture, winners of the WAN Awards Commercial category in 2009. It is part of a larger development known as VISALTO, which comprises three independent but adjoining buildings, with a total surface area of around 35,000 sq m.

The three buildings include an office building, including parking (architect: 2/3/4), a student residence (architect: Jacques Moussafir) and a Hipark apartment hotel (architect: Manuelle Gautrand Architecture).

The development is in the 19th arrondissement on the northern edge of Paris, within an urban environment characterised by the brick buildings of low-cost housing units developed between the wars. The triangular site presented the architects with a challenge as it measures around 10,000 sq m, is orientated north–south on its long axis sloping steeply from its southern point at the Porte Brunet down to its northern point at the Porte Chaumont.

Alongside the périphérique, a 6m-high acoustic barrier wall runs for some 280m, protecting the site from traffic noise. Further pressure is put on the site by maintenance access for this barrier.

The architect’s apartment hotel project is on the northern tip of the plot, built as one continued line with Jacques Moussafir’s student residence. The hotel forms a sort of prow to the overall development, pointing straight towards Jean Nouvel’s Philharmonie de Paris.

The building is in dialogue with two different environments:

- to the west, Boulevard d’Indochine, mostly comprised of the brick facades of the blocks of between-the-wars housing and the landscaping of the T3 tramway.

- to the east, the périphérique, a much less human environment, with streams of traffic and all their associated pollutants.

The building, which fills every inch of the site right up to its edges, moulds itself around urban constraints, requirements in the programme, and land restrictions, notably the buttresses of the acoustic barrier on the périphérique side and the related access routes.

The various spatial and technical restrictions literally sculpted the forms of this project: the site is really very narrow, squeezed on its southern side by the student residence, and eaten into on the east by the access requirements for the maintenance of the acoustic barrier. The building had to find sufficient space for itself within these constraints to provide the required number of rooms for this apartment hotel.

The resulting volume is tapered: different inclining planes allow for fire access along the eastern facade, while lost space is clawed back on the Boulevard d’Indochine side. Further along, where the hotel meets the student residence, the same crisp angles carry through to this second building; the two projects, hotel and student residences, are powerfully related to one another.

These different angled faces, of a volume that was virtually rectangular to begin with, provide very different perceptions of the building: according to the viewpoint, surfaces appear brighter or darker, more or less cambered, conferring a powerful dynamism to the entire building. The facade on the Porte de Chaumont side appears very high because of its narrow width, creating a pedestrian landmark for the Boulevard d’Indochine, and a beacon on the périphérique.

The architects did not want to make the building too pale, bearing in mind the inevitable patina that would accumulate with its proximity to the périphérique. Rich and sometimes darker colours will make dirt less noticeable, as well as giving the project an air of liveliness, slightly shiny, and cheerful in its use of colour.

The tones play out from the bottom to the top, with paler colours as you go higher: The lower section in a variety of quite dark greens creates a base, the darker shades reducing the noticeable effects of dirt, giving a clean, shiny, lasting look. The green tones continue the great line of trees opposite the west facade of the project. Rising up the building, successions of paler blues mix with different greens, and then white, taken straight from the facade of the student residence in order to harmonise the two projects. The colours are fragmented into long strips, which give a kinetic feel to the overall volume capturing the movement of the cars and an impression of speed.

Manuelle Gautrand Architecture were winners of the WAN Awards Commercial category in 2009

Nick Myall

News Editor

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