In response to a decision made by the Parisian local urban authorities, I would like to bring forth an architectural and urban, thus political, response to this issue, which is detailed below :
The Robespierre block, an emblematic 15-story apartment building designed by the architects Tambutet & Lacroix in 1964, is situated between the Paris-Lutèce extensions at La Courneuve («banlieue parisienne» Parisian suburbs). This building stands as a symbolic relay on a metrpolitan scale, at just 100 meters from Roissy Défense, a future metro station.
With its 15 stories, made up of 306 apartments, the Robespierre Apartment Complex, at the address 2-10 of the street bearing the same name, is the highest out of 4000 buildings in the north city. It was constructed in 1964 for the Parisian OPHLM (main office responsible for the allocation of council housing). In 1985, the architect Bernard Paurd was the first to renovate the building. In 1997, he undertook the addition of loggias.
Today, the local authorities call for the symbolic execution of Robespierre through their
intention to raze the existing building. It is to be demolished, so that another similar building can be constructed.
Sure, the walls would be less yellowish, the windows renovated, and the doors would squeak less, but it would be (yet another) urban, thus political, tragedy to not learn from the mistakes of the past, and to reproduce the same pattern that has already failed, again and again.
With this project, my goal is to try to rethink things: to rethink the apartment complexes, once precious to post-war decades; to think of architecture whilst adding a political dimension.
One thing we can be certain of is the fact that the city of La Courneuve does not need anymore “mono-programmatic monoliths.” Social and economic diversity should henceforth be put into place...
Before focusing on the architectural aspect of the project itself, one of the lines of thought that I am proposing today is to think of the project in its context. In other words, to leave space for a square.
It does not make sense to take up the entirety of the plot by scattering projects or thoughtlessly reconstructing an avalanche of concrete. Right in front of the [Re]nouveau Robespierre, we will create an “urban clearing,” which ultimately will be the urban area. This urban clearing, this square, will make life possible, and maybe even necessary. It is thanks to this urban clearing that the project belongs to the city.
The square created in front of the “[Re]NOUVEAU Robespierre” is on a slight slope, and
invites its inhabitants to go smoothly towards the project, like a kind of social carpet allowing city life to go up and down the facade...
Instead of razing the existing project, the main idea of our project would be to keep the existing structure that is still in good condition in order to graft programs inside: apartments on the southern side, greenhouses and vegetable gardens on the eastern side, art and artisanal studios, offices with a daycare directly connected to the afore mentioned elements. There could even be a market place above...
Thus, I am proposing urban altimeter grafts. Using the same intricacy as a surgeon in an operation, we will fabricate an altimeter promenade to increase the height, to resonate with the existing building, along this ridge line.
By grafting and building on the existing structure, this project allows all apartments to be dual-aspect.
The altimeter promenade, a project with squares, streets, and alleys, will continue to the center of [Re]Nouveau Robespierre...which will bring it to the marketplace above.
And, at the end of the market, there will be a cube! A cultural cube! For all of the passerby who come to do their shopping, or for the inhabitants who step out to get some fresh air, there will be this cultural tool that each artist or artisan can adapt to his needs in order to expose his works and local knowledge, since there will be specialized workshops in “Le [Re]Nouveau Robespierre” itself, in addition to those in several stories below.
With this project, you might say that we are no longer looking through small square
windows, everything is a window, everything is a structure, everything is a medium. There is no longer a definition, everything blends together.
I am not trying to sketch a beautiful project, but to create a path towards a project that is awake, alive, intelligent.