A new version of the faubourien-style: the social housing apartments at 179 rue Saint-Maur are located on the site of a former well known space for over thirty years: the "Nine Billiards". The unhealthy conditions of the structure forced a demolition and reconstruction of the building, which contest was won by Avenier Cornejo for the Siemp. Each element of the finished project contributes to reinterpret the dense and complex “faubourien” fabric in order to blend in while assuming a fantasy and originality that shows the real identity of the project. The building takes advantage of the narrow plot to develop into a volume in L, compact and efficient, of six stories high. It deftly connects to its near and distant environment. The front façade integrates with the street by a raw and minimalist materiality: stained concrete that unfolds from the sidewalk up to roof curb. A subtle series of diagonal lines cut the façade in three sections, each drawn line meets the roofs of its two neighbors: a strange looking two-story + attic townhouse and a 6-story building. This design detail allows to accommodate these very heterogeneous structures and it’s in that politeness that the project communicates with one as with the other. The plot has a small garden of 47 m² facing south. Each of the fourteen units, which typologies range from studios (T1) to 3-bedroom (T4) apartments, is floor-through and flooded with light all throughout the day. Each apartment has a balcony with a unique place next to the kitchen, serving as interface between the inside and the outside. From here residents can take their morning coffee enjoying an intimate and calm space that, along with the neighboring tree in the background, almost makes you forget the bustle of the neighborhood. Up above, the balcony on the sixth floor offers a frame over the Paris rooftops and grants an unexpected one-on-one with a city that we would have almost forgotten. One of the major infrastructure choices of the project is to turn the living room and the kitchen toward the garden, and to place the bedrooms facing the rue Saint Maur, jostling with previous conceptions. The original goal of the plans is reflected on the detail level of the apartments, which interior is generally atypical and contradicts the apparent rigidity of the facade by integrating non-standard, even daring elements: rounded walls in the living room, negative of the communal circular staircase, folded wall sections, square openings where a wall meets the ceiling... a contemporary composition of forms that interact with the natural light. Each architectural element is a detail treated with attention: large casement windows in every room, opening from floor to ceiling in each living room and kitchen, even in the bathrooms at times, full-height closets with customized hinged doors, perforated louvered shutters along the windows facing the garden. The materials are qualitative: solid wood windows, enamel sinks… with a few exceptions.
Christelle Avenier and Miguel Cornejo studied together at the ENSA Paris Malaquais before founding their own firm. Their collaborative career begins with a winning project for the Électra Grant (EDF) in Chili. In the wake of this, Avenier Cornejo is awarded the 2014 “Europe 40 under 40” prize and the project ‘Porte des Lilas’ is nominated for the 2014 Equerre d’Argent French architecture prize and for the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture Mies Van der Rohe Award 2015. The firm’s approach is above all inventive, with no preconceptions or prejudices: “We want to take the time to design and build with pleasure so as to ensure quality. Experience confronts us with constraints: the better we grasp them the better we can master them so as to design freely.” They have been featured in the Pavillon de l’Arsenal in Paris, the Architectural Review, and in the Wallpaper magazine which named Avenier Cornejo among its top 20 young architectural talents of 2013.
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