Through the 20th century and until today, few countries have contributed as much as France to the history of collective dwellings, in terms of both the quantity of built units and the typological research on the domestic space. Contradictions and social tragedies from the age of modernist grands ensembles, though, have left deep scars on an architectural culture which is still striving, more or less consciously, to distance itself from its past mistakes.
Sophie Delhay’s projects for 32 housing units in Dijon can be interpreted also as opposed to two severe traumas from the last century: the dull standardization of houses within residential developments built au kilomètre (quoting Le Corbusier), and the lack of natural light, removed from the domestic interior from pre-cast panels which limited glazed surfaces to a bare minimum.
The complex designed by Delhay includes three different dwelling typologies, recreating within the assigned lot the complexity of a residential neighborhood which has grown over time: two variants of flats and a row of independent terraced houses. All of them share a similar layout of the living areas, all featuring double exposure and a double-height portion, and all opening out to the outside with a fully glazed wall.
Delhay describes this room as a séjour-cathédrale, the “cathedral living room”. The space of domestic life becomes, in name and in fact, monumental, rather than minimal. Collective areas (a community garden, a rooftop terrace) represent a much-welcome addition to its quality, rather than the urgent offsetting of its flaws.
- 32 logements-cathédrale
- 32 dwellings
- Dijon, France
- Sophie Delhay architecte
- 2,392 sqm