Exchange Surfaces

Young Workers Residence and Crèche, Porte des Lilas Paris (20ᵉ)

Just like small geographical entities, some buildings have significant connections with the outside world, revealed and expressed through their materiality. Envisioned as an exchange surface, their envelope imparts a global coherence and a strong identity to the project. In such cases, the façade is not to be considered as a bi-dimensional flat board, but rather as a skin matching the building’s dynamics and complexities.

Such effects derive from people’s uses and habits inside the facility as well as from the site itself (relation to the context). The implemented material must bear witness of these connections. Its application on every side of the building is a solution that often seems relevant to us, for it produces a physical, almost carnal homogeneity to the volumes. The building is thus looking at all directions at the same time, all sides being of equal importance (there is no front or back). This geographical continuity confers the project its identity.

Rosalind Franklin School and Student Residence, Ivry sur Seine (94)

Working on each project with only few different materials helps us to accentuate their intensity. Whether using brick, concrete, metal or glass, each material is considered as significant and its properties are explored in all their expressional range. The brick used in Les Lilas is tectonic: it relates the emergence of a specific urban topography in relation to the ring road context, the inner suburbs, the first low-cost housing units (Habitations à Bon Marché)… In Ivry, metal was used in all types of variations, from vertical expanded metal sun-breakers to the student residence’s ‘mantilla’.

The Moulins facility’s zinc, in Lille, was chosen for its adaptability and texture. Covering the walls, roofs and eaves, it adjusts to all spatial situations and punctuates the volumes by its foldings, which also emphasize the diagonal lines linking one programme to another. The irregular rhythm of the standing seams underlines the warm brown velvety reflections by a graphic contrast effect. This hue refers to the typical red bricks of the neighbourhood. Wrapped in this sensitive envelope, the building is organized as a continuous ribbon disposed around a central courtyard.

In the school project completed in Fresnes, all outdoor spaces and ground floor level façades are wrapped in an open-worked wall, reflecting fleeting silhouettes. This thin fibre reinforced concrete membrane delineates the facility and the public space in a nearly dematerialised way. The ‘lace-wall’ reveals the playgrounds, but also casts its shadow through the glass panels of the sports hall.

This wall encloses but also preserves, and yet enables an interface between inside and outside spaces. Neither a fence nor a façade, it expresses the building’s relation towards its environment by offering a ludic porosity between the street and the playground spaces.

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