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.
Totoro in Paris, France by KOZ architects
June 12th, 2018 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: KOZ architects
The Paul Bourget neighborhood has long been a « terra incognita » of the Parisian cityscape. To the outside it is a citadel hanging above the tumultuous « périphérique » ring road and the swirling canopy of the Kellerman Park. Inwards it is a modest piece of the post-war urban planning boom, introverted and peacefully forgotten. Its striking sense of community is so close and yet so distant from the hustle of the nearby Porte d’Italie. Do we know of other places in Paris where residents seem to come « out of the woods » to enter the city?
Looking like two gentle urban « Totoro » figures, the project stands on the site of a previous building dismantled after it caught fire. It sets the mood for the gradual uplifting of the whole area around a central garden opening on the beautiful western horizon ranging above the Kellerman Park towards the Charlety stadium.
A maximum of apartments make the most of this breathtaking metropolitan view which is extended thanks to spectacular balconies suspended in mid-air. They also benefit from features bringing extra comfort to everyday life which required cleverness and perseverance to fit inside the dense tower blocks defined by the masterplan. Indeed the living rooms are larger than asked by the client. Also, real single room kitchens, large landings offering sunlight and views to the outside as well as solid wood floorboards were fitted in all apartments. Because social housing is not « all in the façade » architecture !
To breakup the built mass each block is split in two to form four pavilions marked by the sharp contrast of their outer skin materiality.
Facing the west : a dress of stainless steel reflecting in the urban skyline the atmospheric variations of rain, blue and gray skies or stunning sunsets. The perforated patterns of the steel plates play an active part in breaking down the loud humming of the expressway and its reverberation towards public spaces. Towards the central garden, fluted larch facades bring a vibration, a more sensitive and intimate scale specific to wood.
Cut volumes generated by urban rules, topped by Totoro’s ears. It looks a bit like a city drawn by children … This instantly familiar and happily rambunctious world is highlighted by the doubleheight community hall and its cozy garden, strategically set at a corner next to a small square. A Place long awaited by the neighboring residents to create a mixed-generation social hotspot around various activities ranging from art studios to cooking, NGO meetings and gardening.
No show off, but the patient tuning of programmatic, codes, site and cost constraints into strong statements serving quality of life and pride in a rising anew neighborhood.
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