Lot 06A – ZCB: Porosities and Views

sam architecture

Architects: sam architecture
Location: Paris, France
Area: 9,554 m2
Year: 2019
Photography: Schnepp Renou

The urban regeneration zone of Clichy-Batignolles covers over 133 acres of land (54 hectares). Located in the 17th arrondissement of Paris, it is one of the most ambitious urban projects currently led by the city. The site bears the historical signs of transportation and logistics activities, facilitated by the train lines leading to the Saint Lazare train station and the beltway nearby. Therefore, the stakes of the project can be summarized by the single idea of designing a densely built environment for this neighborhood, creating the possibility to include this isolated railway site into a very much needed urban continuity.

The area is built around Martin Luther King Park, crossing its whole length and leading to the symbolic Paris Courthouse, overlooking the northern part of the site. In this urban operation, lot 6A plays an essential role, located between the urbanized rue Mstislav Rostropovitch to the west and the park to the east. The question of porosities and views created between the two spaces is vital to the project definition. The final volumetric design is the direct result of the rational understanding of the programmatic and site constraints.

Volumes

The main goal for the project is to obtain as much space and sun as possible for the outdoor playgrounds of the school and daycare center. The choice was made to densify the housing areas and to exploit the legal possibilities of the site: grouping apartments into two buildings up to 50 meters high. These two towers are on the north-south diagonal of the site, allowing a maximum amount of sun for both playgrounds. At noon, the shadow from the tower will only cover the roof of the kindergarten.

The resulting volumes are inserted into the rhythm of existing constructions. The highest tower alternates with the one on lot 04 facing it. Modelling the volumes this way also provides crosswise views from the street to the park. Consequently, the second tower, hosting social housing, is comprised of a seven-floor volume. This building faces the park and restricts the impact of the project on lot 06B in terms of views and shadows.

This design allows the project to create multiple views through the site by participating in the alternation of 28- and 50-meter-high volumes in the neighborhood, and between the park and the street. Moreover, the project chooses to be as open as possible toward the park. The space in between the towers manages to create views from the street to the park. One can see both the park and the foliage of the courtyard’s trees from the street, through the gap in the school building. The park seems forms a green background for the scenery framed by the opening.

Materiality

The issue of materials is essential to architecture, but too often only applied to façades and ornaments. This project aims to put into perspective the antagonism of many buildings: it brings into conflict structural or technical materials on the one hand and the materials being used to hide them on the other, creating an ornamental layer.

This decorative surface is often too shallow and has a short life span. After a time, one must consider replacing it. The project aimed to break free from this fashion of disposable ornaments.

The idea is to underline the raw quality of the materials and reveal the structure of the building. The design opted for noble structural materials, avoiding the need for a decorative layer. Because of the savings obtained by removing inside decoration, the structure can appear in the most noble way as possible. The beauty of the materials is naturally enhanced, and their function can easily be recognized. The technical components are left visible in order to show how the building was made. For example, the choice to showcase raw concrete walls is a way to draw attention to their structural impact in the building.

The main concept at work here is to aim for truth in construction, showcasing the simplicity and transparency of the structure and technical elements of the building.

The same idea is at work when it comes to the wooden structure of the kindergarten and the school. This structure can be perceived both from inside and outside the building. On the outside, the spirit of the wooden structure is translated into wooden cladding and frameworks made from the same wood, French larch.

These materials represent a structural necessity for the building as much as its initial look. The architect can regain control over the image of the building, since it becomes virtually impossible to change the appearance of the construction without damaging its structural parts. The process of creating a materiality that is both precise and essential to the construction appears to be the first environmental approach to architecture. The design allows the building to persist over time without having to suffer from recurring aesthetical changes. The goal is to create an architecture made to have a longer life span without producing useless waste through its existence.

About Schools

Both the school and the kindergarten were conceived with a common goal on the part of the team: to create as much use value as possible for spaces that might have been overlooked as secondary. A corridor can become an extra room, the foyer for a classroom during small group activities, for example. We aimed to offer as many uses as we can for a single space, so that every room can have multiple functions. These potentials contained in each space support the idea that they can host various activities and events.

The school could also become a place for other activities once the classes are done; the space should be welcoming and open to new types of appropriation. The presence of a stage, framing a peculiar view of Montmartre increases the value of the space around it. It is more than just a circulation area now; it is a useful and flexible space where people can stop for a while.

Our architecture aims to be adaptative and flexible in the long term. The choice to showcase a structure made of columns and beams with light walls is proof of that goal. The building can be redefined in the future to host new indoor functions without changing its overall architecture. Therefore, we can design a place that respects both the architect’s intentions and, most importantly, the desires of its future users.