Willing to imagine the city as a vast living environment, we want to create harmony between our projects and their contexts inside the cityscape. Seeing an architecture project as part of a landscape implies to consider the site with a much broader perception, quite the reverse of a building designed as a solitary object. In this regard, and especially at a certain scale, a building can be thought of as a physical geography: it becomes an inhabited landscape.
With such a vision of architecture, the building takes its place in the city as part of a whole. The residents’ perspectives are seen as the starting point. This provides an approach which is at the same time a local and an overall one. It is part of a complex whole including a series of territorial elements: its scale, its formation, its history. It is an integral part of the ongoing urban sedimentation process.
The office building project in the Batignolles district, Paris 17th arrondissement, originates from a topographical study of the cityscape. As it is positioned directly above the void created by the Gare Saint-Lazare railways entering the city, the building contributes to the geological section effect in this part of the city. In this area, Paris displays a rugged terrain, heights and depressions, and vast empty spaces. This urban geography, as some sort of anthropocene morphological accident, inspires the geometric variations of the building. Constituted in a ‘ribbon’ plan, it shows an open façade to the railways, the street and the park, as an answer to this great landscape context. Hence, in the manner of the Möbius strip, the interior and exterior spaces become entangled on all sides of the building, offering at the same time free flow and an outside visual continuity from the ground floor to the roof.
Located in front of the Centquatre cultural facility and wedged between the Éole garden and the Gare de l’Est railways, the logistics centre of the Tafanel company is designed as an artificial landscape, consisting of a large pleated cloth forming a succession of multi-directional sheds. On the street side, a 450 metre-linear façade faces frontally the preexisting buildings. It is composed of wired glass overlapped by a layer of anodized aluminium. The glass was superimposed to an old blind wall. This former street art support thus represents the first layer of a stratification turning into a changing mirror, reflecting the city and the evolutions of the daylight. On the railways side, the roof displays a regular pattern produced by the folds descending onto the façade, multiplying the acceleration/deceleration effect and offering a kinetic vision to the passengers of the trains.
Due to its geographical presence, the landscape-building’s relation to its environment can be seen as a sort of radiance: it is generated by the context and affects it in return, in a motion of interaction. The landscape-building bears its immediate environment and transforms it.
The Moulins secondary school in Lille is located on a corner plot at a crossroads between the Boulevard d’Alsace and the rue d’Arras, facing the aerial metro. This situation calls for a reflection about the perception of urban facilities at different scales.
The first approach is that of the building as seen from afar -its masses, its roofs- in a rather stealthy vision. Seen from the aerial metro, or from the nearby buildings, the upper part is treated as a continuum, playing with the volumetric topography of its masses. The various programmatic elements are clearly identifiable: the secondary school, the sports hall, the boarding school, the rehearsal room. This geography is unified by a supple pre-weathered zinc envelope following the volume’s shape, and creating an emblematic urban signal for the facility itself as well as for the neighbourhood.
The second approach, which is more local, is that of the relation between the neighbourhood and the facility. It refers to the pedestrian’s point of view, whose gaze is at the ground floor and access level. This first level was made as porous and transparent as possible, in order to offer a depth of field allowing to grasp the whole plot straight from the street.
Collège de la Paix
This secondary school near Paris, in Issy-les-Moulineaux, was designed with the aim to assign a function to its own geography. The playground follows a programmatic backbone connecting the common spaces (restoration, courtyard, hall). This diagonal axis cuts through the ring-shaped plan, creating a series of additional outdoor spaces offered to the pupils. The path thus acquires great fluidity, allowing to walk freely from the playground up to the library, the theatre, the arts room, and so on, up to the rooftop. The facility turns into a spatial experiment within an alternatively vegetal and mineral topography.