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Story - Rue de Meaux Housing
Paris, France, 1987/1991
The Rue de Meaux residential complex is located in the 19th district of Paris, a densely populated area north of the city centre. The project was commissioned in 1987 by the city, or rather by the “Régie immobilière de la Ville de Paris”, at the time managed by Michel Lombardini. The aim was to create a low-cost residential complex that would house 220 apartments. In the original plan, the site was to be traversed by a public road. The project designed by RPBW, on the other hand, proposed a different solution more respectful of the inhabitants’ privacy: the arrangement of the apartments around a park full of trees. The rectangular complex is designed like a factory, whose perimeter integrates perfectly within the urban fabric, while its centre overlooks a large area of greenery. The short sides of the rectangle are each interrupted by two vertical cuts, dividing the façade into 3 elongated blocks, which are proportional in size to the surrounding buildings. These cuts offer access to the internal portion of the complex. The bustling roadway and the serenity of the interior space offer a pleasant contrast to one another: the rectangular park area boasts two large green areas containing low shrubs and white birches. Anyone approaching the residence will catch a glimpse of the trees through the openings in the façade. All of the apartments can be reached from this central courtyard via staircase units, which also open up onto the park.
The building’s volumetric layout has allowed for a wide variety of apartments to be obtained. In fact, the types of dwellings that were created in the longer sections surrounding the park area, such as those of the eastern and western blocks, have simple and flexible layouts. With the exception of some of the smaller units, all of the apartments have a facade overlooking the park and another overlooking the city, and have layouts of different sizes based on the positions that they occupy. Each apartment is mainly made up of a large room that extends in a north-easterly and south-westerly direction, with balconies at each end. The bedrooms are located adjacent to the main room. The recessed façade on the upper floors creates space for a terrace: on this level, like at ground level, a number of the apartments extend over two floors. On the street side, the lower floors house small businesses. The access roads for service vehicles and the entrances to the underground parking lot, which extends beneath the building thus leaving the park area unencumbered, are located at the ends of the outer blocks.
The building is characterized by its different facades, which have been achieved using a “double-skinned” system. The facades overlooking the park area, from the second to the seventh floor, are comprised of 90 x 90 cm protruding grids made up of precast, fibreglass-reinforced concrete elements, each of which is 30 cm deep and 5 cm thick. These elements are detached from the walls themselves in order to ensure proper ventilation. This grid is adorned with opaque insulating elements, which are covered with either 20x42 cm terracotta tiles or with white fibreglass-reinforced concrete screens. The panels do not cover the entire surface: behind the open modules, which are protected by the bars of the support grid, there are traditional white-frame windows. On the ground floor and first floor, even on the side that gives onto the park, glass elements, with surfaces that have been treated in order to ensure privacy, are embedded within a framework similar to that of the terracotta elements. While the facade overlooking the street has no protruding grids and the covering adheres directly to the primary structure, the materials and forms from the park-side facades are still present.
The complex was inaugurated in 1991.
Certain parts of the complex were renovated between 2007 and 2009. The visible concrete parts were cleaned and a number of grids on the staircase units were restored. The street-side façade, whose covering initially adhered directly to the primary structure, has been modified in relation to the shops at the ground and first floor levels. The facades have been transformed into double-height windows, reflecting the design of the workshops overlooking the courtyard on the ground floor, and are protected by concrete canopies.
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