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Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.

Housing Vitrolles in Bouches du Rhone, France

August 17th, 2012 by Sumit Singhal

Article source: Matte Devaux Rousseau architecture


The project is located in the western outer rim of the town, next to the A7 freeway in the Petite Garrigue neighborhood.

The environment on the Eastern front all along the Paul Guigou boulevard is scarcely populated with a few isolated apartment buildings.

Image Courtesy Stéphane Chalmeau

  • Architects : Matte Devaux Rousseau architecture
  • Project: Housing Vitrolles
  • Location: Vitrolles, Bouches du Rhone, France
  • Client : 13 Habitat
  • Project Year: 2008-2012
  • Cost: 6,900,000 € HT
  • Project Area: 5,315 sqm
  • Photographs: Stéphane Chalmeau
  • Software used: Autocad and 3ds Max

Image Courtesy Stéphane Chalmeau

The project is part of a wide urban renovation process aimed at restructuring the urban landscape in areas where there is very little urban cohesion.

Image Courtesy Stéphane Chalmeau

In order to abide by these goals, the project had to meet three main challenges :

–          Recreate a urban front in order to transform the Boulevard Guigou into a street.

–          Implant the buildings in such a way as to optimize the quality of the environment, with proper orientations facing privileged views on the cliffs spreading towards the eastern part of the town.

–          The placement of the buildings should take into account local nuisances : overlooking the freeway and the commercial area nearby and their subsequent noise pollution; but also protecting the site from the strong mistral wind that comes in from the north.

Image Courtesy Stéphane Chalmeau

This is why we decided to split the 58 rental units into four different, detached L-shaped buildings presenting a noble aligned street front.

This set-up presents several advantages:

–          Setting-up structured and aligned urban facades along the Paul Guigou boulevard.

–          Build a solid wall along the freeway in order to limit to a maximum the sound coming from this axis.

–          Protect and improve the existing green spaces, private small gardens with several trees offering a welcoming green environment for the residents but also for people using the boulevard.

–          Implanting the buildings perpendicular to the North/South axis to protect the parks and green areas, but also the buildings’ patios and loggias from the cold northern wind. This way the Mistral is literally “blocked” for the pedestrians walking on the sidewalks of the Guigou boulevard.

–          With this implantation and by fractioning the large operation into smaller buildings we keep the project human-sized with a small city feel.

–          Having direct sunlight at the heart of the gardens and private patios and providing comfortable lighting in the apartments and their outside extensions (loggias or patios).

–          Give some intimacy to each living unit by emphasizing the distance between the building front and the street.

The 58 living units are spread out into 4 distinct buildings each with 15 living units. The implantation of these buildings optimizes the topographic specificities of the landsite.

Image Courtesy Stéphane Chalmeau

In fact, their exact implantation is located at the height of the embankment, keeping them at a nice distance from the street.

The buildings are directly accessible from the boulevard by pedestrian lanes between the buildings in order to access the gardens and green areas.

Image Courtesy Stéphane Chalmeau

An inside private roadway connected to the boulevard by the southern end of the site enables the cars to access the building site by its western rim, out of the freeway.

This roadway also keeps the A7 outer rims at an additional distance, since it is bordered with trees. This road distributes the accesses to the split-level car parks planned under each building.

Image Courtesy Stéphane Chalmeau

Alongside this private roadway, plants and bushes form a line alongside the facades with private outside parking spaces for visitors. The space located between each building front offers a view on the gardens planted above.

Accessible ramps connect to the pathways leading to the building entrances and back to the sidewalks of the Paul Guigou boulevard.

Image Courtesy Stéphane Chalmeau

The four buildings share a same architectural vision, yet vary in some ways.

They are designed in horizontal layers:

–          The underground car parks are integrated within a large garden base made of the existing but redesigned embankment. Thus, car parks are a little lower down than the sidewalks but it limits the negative impact of  having large access ramps to underground parking.

–          A ground floor is dedicated to accessible living with private gardens for persons with disabilities.

–          Two floors of living areas are surrounded by a clear cement cover, offering large loggias overlooking the gardens and smaller windows and openings at the back of the building.

–          The superstructure is covered in textured cement forming a real attic with duplex apartments.

Image Courtesy Stéphane Chalmeau

Each of the four building is unique. The implementation of textured cement boxes and openings vary from one building to the next. We wanted this characteristic to “break” the repetitive visual effect and for the residents to self-appropriate their living area.

This differentiation is furthermore underlined by a color code allowing the identification of each unit from afar. The inside of the loggias as well as the technical walls and welcome areas on the street front are in bright colors, from orange ocher to anis green thus sublimating the whiteness of the facades.

Image Courtesy Stéphane Chalmeau

The building facades also change colors with the various contrasts of the daytime and nighttime ballet of shadows and lights thus creating various raised designs thanks to the differences in volumes, but also to the various depths of the loggias and the slanted walls.

All walk-through apartments have at least two different views.

Image Courtesy Stéphane Chalmeau

The materials and building techniques used were chosen for their esthetics and durability. They are in total accordance with the project’s technical guidelines and constraints.

–          The lower part of the buildings, in contact with the gardens and common areas, are in glazed gray cement, treated for preventing street tags to disfigure the environment.

–          Upper floors are in clear cement to keep the luminous impact and give the impression that the upper levels are « away » from the ground thus toning down their massive shape. The loggias are coated with bright colors, warming up the interiors and creating raised designs on the facades.

Image Courtesy Stéphane Chalmeau

Image Courtesy Stéphane Chalmeau

Image Courtesy Stéphane Chalmeau

Image Courtesy Stéphane Chalmeau

Image Courtesy Stéphane Chalmeau

Image Courtesy Stéphane Chalmeau

Image Courtesy Stéphane Chalmeau

East Elevation

North Elevation

South Elevation

West Elevation

Vitrolles first floor layer

Vitrolles second floor layer

Vitrolles third floor layer


Vitrolles section 1

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Categories: 3dS Max, Autocad, Housing Development

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