"Building a city on a city" has long been the standard approach to urban renewal. Our modernity
has largely ignored and further complicated this practice that is now coming back all the more strongly due to the economic realities of construction being challenged by the severity of environmental issues.
Rehabilitating and preserving existing buildings, even over and above considerations of heritage, is becoming a viable means of saving energy and sobriety, a source of reusable materials and a great opportunity to discover new uses resulting from conversion. Entering a building with its past life and its history, its previous uses, means imagining new stories to tell based on older tales and the richness of their promise.
That is why we like to use the term "Metamorphosis" rather than rehabilitation:
for us, it means building on the old to create something new and richer still than what might have been preserved.
The project to transform the Lourcine barracks in the 13th Arrondissement of Paris is ambitious and innovative, due to both its scale and above all to the new relationship it creates with the existing buildings. In the heart of a very built-up and innervated district where the barracks has hitherto formed a distinct area, opening up the site to its immediate environment helps to tell those new stories. This evolution is based on an approach to the redevelopment of Parisian heritage, which in this case is envisaged not so much as a museum exhibit frozen in time, but as a means of regenerating the city, capable of breathing new life into the district.
While this had been a military site since well before the French revolution, it has been in its current configuration since the end of the nineteenth century. The topography of the land in the Lourcine barracks presents a flat area between the parade ground and Boulevard de Port Royal and a slight slope towards Rue de la Glacière, but on the eastern side Rue Broca (an ancient medieval lane) is almost five metres lower.
This allows for natural light to enter the basement floors of building 2 through large windows with a major foundation. This topography bears witness to the major earthworks and development undertaken in the nineteenth century.
In the centre, a large, rectangular parade ground planted with trees and surrounded on both sides by substantial barracks
(buildings 1 and 2), each consisting of a central portion with wings at either end. These two original buildings were doubtless built in two phases using dressed stones, rubble and brick with a wooden frame and a slate roof according to a classical architectural model.
The site evolved in the second half of the twentieth century with the demolition of buildings facing Boulevard de Port Royal and Rue Saint Hippolyte and the construction of two imposing buildings maintaining the composition of the north / south axis. On the Saint Hippolyte side, a two-floor car park was created under the building up to the level of the slope and protruding into the parade ground.
The former Lourcine barracks are located in Paris’ 13th district and comprise a parade ground with accompanying military buildings erected in 1875. The project calls for elements of the University of Paris I – library, lecture theatre, classrooms, offices – to be installed within the old buildings and in basement levels under the parade ground. The project aims to make the most of this Parisian heritage, taking a precision approach that will as far as possible retain the existing spaces and preserve the historic character of the site. We are seeking to adapt the project and its new activities to the buildings without erasing their past. The parade ground retains its central, unifying and symbolic role, as a landscaped forecourt sloping down to frame the new access to the gallery and lecture theatre. Lecture and class rooms are inserted into the existing buildings, making the most of their spatial qualities (ceiling heights, noble materials).