What does the "architecture of the crisis" look like? Located on the former site of the Renault factories in Boulogne-Billancourt, LAN Architecture's latest 58-unit housing development is the result of a complex transformation process of a city in a strained economic context. The project is part of the Trapèze Ouest in the Ile Seguin-Rives de Seine sector, one of the most important emerging centres in Ile-de-France. The winner of a 2008 competition, the project consists of a residential block in a new mixed-use neighbourhood at the cutting edge in sustainable development. In this territory, public and private interests are bound to cross.
The first step of the work consisted in drawing from the hostile politico-economic context a series of questions: In a framework where the ability of the architect is knowingly limited and in a context where economic conditions are uncertain, how do architects imagine an architecture capable of resisting disruptive change? One that can be reassured in moments of instability, face situations of crisis and justify itself in any moment?
"If each individual is allowed to act upon his dwelling in regards to his own taste and needs, the fundamentals that make for quality are, in this building, unchangingly insured," state the architects. "In difficult moments, one must return to fundamentals and choices are narrowed: it is simply survival instinct." With this project the architects faced the most challenging scenarios from the very first sketch. The programme and volumes are rigorously defined, diminishing the impacts on the project: costs of construction, the instability of an economic crisis, a private real estate system that isolates the site designer and strict certification labels.
From a technical point of view, simplification was used to reduce costs, but it also produced a readable built form. The South and East façades are punctuated by multiple large openings, extending the interior of the dwellings to exterior corridors running along the building. Larger balconies are inserted at intervals in the line of the terraces, projecting out. The juxtaposition of punctual and linear elements give the impression of a slender and lighter building when viewed from the surrounding streets.
LAN Architects: 58 housing units in Boulogne-Billacourt
Program: 58 housing units
Project Ownership Assistance: SAEM Val de Seine
Location: 3 Allée Robert Doisneau 92100 Boulogne-Billancourt, France
Cost: 7,2 million euros (excluding VAT)
Built Area: 4,639 square metres
Completion: November 2011
Team: LAN Architecture (lead architect), COTEC (all-trades engineers), LEAU (Environmental AMO)