'Permacultural' way of life: Edison Lite, architecture and nature
Manuelle Gautrand Architecture
Among the 22 architectural projects selected from the call for innovative urban projects launched by the City of Paris, 'REINVENTER PARIS 1', our EDISON LITE project proposed a new housing model, based on three main principles that we established:
- The creation of 'made-to-measure' housing units, whereby the future residents were able to participate in establishing the brief as well as the design of their home;
- The provision of 20% extra surface area, defined and shared with the residents: this provides access to space and facilities that would not otherwise be available to individual residents;
- To welcome residents into an existing landscape: largely planted during works, the architectural project includes 75m3 of soil, divided between 290 planters and a large, 150m2 allotment on the roof.
These plants have had time to establish themselves and grow before the arrival of residents. Residents are thereby greeted by an established natural environment, for which they will have responsibility.
The project thus proposes a sort of 'permacultural' way of life: residents will produce some of their own food, learning the pleasure of watching food grow, a means of encouraging them to participate in the collective effort that we must all undertake to reduce supply chains and move towards a landscape of edible permaculture as near as possible to home.
With regards materials, the project set itself the principle of 'the right material in the right place'. The result is an optimised combination of concrete, timber and metal.
It should be noted that the apartments are sold at a fixed price of 7,990€ incl. VAT per square metre, around 30% lower than the market rate. All sales and marketing was conducted online thanks to online platform HABX: nearly 2,000 applications were received for the 13 open-market units. The buyers were selected according to a variety of criteria aimed at ensuring a community of residents both diverse and compatible.
The building includes two fitted-out commercial units on the ground floor: one is now occupied by the Babilou crèche and the other is a physiotherapy practice.
'MADE-TO-MEASURE' HOUSING CO-DESIGNED WITH THE FUTURE RESIDENTS
Edison Lite is first and foremost a building of 'made-to-measure' housing, that is to say co-designed with its future residents.
Residents were selected from a great number of applications, organised and managed by the HABX platform. Once the residents had been selected, we worked with them initially to orientate them in choosing the position of their unit within the building, and then to guide them in the interior fit-out of their apartment.
The residents present a range of family situations, all different: we took care that on each floor the various families would have things in common but also complementarities: a real alchemy was sought to create, step by step, a solid community of residents.
MORE THAN 20% OF SPACE SHARED BY RESIDENTS
The second major innovation is the construction of more than 20% of communal space programmed and shared by the residents. These communal spaces were designed as a route, accompanying the residents and providing them with meeting places from the basement level right up to the roof. This provides them with areas and functions that they would not individually have been able to create.
It must be noted that these 'extra' functions occupy a privileged position within the building, that which would usually be reserved for the best, and therefore most expensive, apartments on the upper floors. We thereby made the choice to assign the project's best spaces – those with the best views and most sunlight – for all the residents to share.
A large part of the added value of this project thereby comes from its capacity to create a unique atmosphere, inviting each resident to use these shared spaces, to feel at home and spend a lot of time there.
290 LARGE PLANTERS ACROSS THE FACADE
Abundant planting in the communal spaces continues into the private spaces, constituting another major undertaking of the project. Situated on a narrow plot surrounded by buildings, some imposing, we designed facades that were both largely glazed but also largely planted, in order to create a kind of filter to mask direct views.
Thus 290 large planters punctuate the windows of the facade, with an average of 14 planters per unit, which, along with the shared allotment, equates to 10m2 of soil per apartment!
The planters have been planted with 310 passionflower plants, which 'belong' to the collective, along with 4,320 bulbs and 1,418 rushes (Luzula) in the residents' private planters.
More than 6,000 plants were thereby planted before the residents' arrival, ensuring the established planted landscape that we see today.
Our objective was to create a continuum between residents and nature: no window is bare, each is equipped with a planter in front, dressing the view, framing the landscape and projecting the resident into a planted foreground. The apartments become components of a larger ensemble, integrating residents in an expanse of nature, which envelops both facades and roof.
The architecture of the project is rooted in soil, earth, water, plants: coming right into the foreground, this vegetation creates the repository for the apartments and families that live in them. Thus, every family has the impression of living within the landscape that we designed, and which was already there. Each family has the responsibility of looking after it, ensuring that it flourishes and spreads across the facade and over the roof, to live in harmony with it.
In the end, the EdisonLite project gave us as much work in forming a happy and responsible community of residents as in creating this varied and enveloping natural world around the construction.
SCCV EDISON LITE
MANUELLE GAUTRAND ARCHITECTURE
BUREAU BAS SMETS - S2T - VPEAS
Manuelle Gautrand Architecture is an international firm mixing architects and designers, based in Paris and unanimously acclaimed for its sensitive multi-disciplinary approach, in many types of programs, including a wide range of hospitality projects.
Manuelle Gautrand has been awarded and named laureate in 2017 with Europe’s Highest Award for Architecture by The European Centre for Architecture, Art Design and Urban Studies, and The Chicago Athenaeum / Museum of Architecture and Design.
Our office aspires to serve people and cities with an innovative and poetic architecture: far away from standardization, we try to find for each project the right sustainable solution. We fully trust in solutions that are unique for each client, emphasizing the local qualities of a site, its history, culture and geography.