Architecture is not merely a thing of the mind. It also seeks to become a real, built object before it is entrusted to its users. Unlike a piece of music, in which the composer leaves execution of his or her work to persons usually unknown and thereby allows for a certain measure of interpretation, architects must engage in the design and realization of a project until it is “perfectly completed.” This obligates architects to grapple with the challenge of comparing the design to its reality well in advance. We can see this, for example, in some of Leonardo da Vinci’s sketches, where he conceived the composition of a façade and the details of its composition simultaneously.
A confrontation with the heaviness of things begins already with the studies, when the project is designed down to its minutia, that is, “in detail.” Though not exempt from a process of deep questioning, this phase is necessary both for the building to become reality, and especially for its author to master the execution of his or her ideas fully.
In every project we carry out, materiality is never chosen for its own sake, instead for its capacity to translate the project’s underlying intentions. Therefore, we are searching not for technicality, rather for a way to express our initial intentions to the fullest by following an economy of means, a wish to simplify, and more generally, the quest for abstraction. What we are targeting is the imperceptibility of technical resolution.
By binding a series of oppositions, such as interior/exterior, fullness/emptiness, horizontal/vertical, and complexity/simplicity, detail reveals the juncture of a building’s various components, be they spatial, material, structural, or otherwise. As a fragment of the building, a detail forms a metonymic relationship with it, bearing local witness to the materialization of the design’s overall intentions. In fact, it acquires great symbolic significance, thereby becoming a kind of microarchitecture.
Even though the four details presented here differ perceptibly one from the other in function of their structural, material, and functional contexts, they nevertheless illustrate the interplay between general intentions at the level of the building and their technical resolution at the level of the façade.
Lille (F), 2014
The parcel’s strategic position, located at the intersection of different axes, pushed our research towards a sophisticated solution that acts as a hub, as a stitch that brings together the elements gravitating around it. We strove for a “multiform” architecture whose geometry could provide a specific response to the various challenges tied to the project’s scale, geography, and program. The façades were designed to become a series of windows that provide a 360-degree panorama of the city, framing views of the city’s newer parts, its green spaces, and the downtown. The copper is used as a fixed siding along the opaque or semi-glassed stretches of the façade. It is also present in the form of perforated panels that helps precisely regulate the amount of light penetrating the building.
40 Housing Units
Paris (F), 2014
We view our proposal as a tribute to Paris and the Haussmannian typology, to an architecture defined by the city’s specificity and logic, but with the additional demand of needing to anticipate potential changes in use. The project’s design is based on the regularity of its façade. Each apartment is organized around a large loggia. The arrangement of the loggias creates an exchange between matter and transparency across the façade. We also attempted to create a “clean” façade by limiting lines and simplifying joineries in order to make it very iconic. Only the façades and circulation core are load-bearing, which leaves maximum flexibility to the arrangement of each floor. The building can, therefore, change use in the future when required.
EDF Archive Center
Bure-Saudron (F), 2011
Above and beyond the functional aspect of managing the archives, this is a strategic project that is supposed to have a positive social and environmental impact on the region. The building has to integrate itself fully into the landscape and respond to environmental quality regulations. In order to optimize storage and energy performance, our research led us towards a simple, rational volume. Particular attention was paid to the envelope. To create the image of a light building in movement, stainless steel discs were integrated into the cement siding, which represent the foliage of trees in a forest. The building’s envelope thereby provides a constant sense of movement that continues to change in function of the varying luminosity and tonality of the different seasons.
Student Residence Pajol
Paris (F), 2011
The student residence has woven itself into the urban fabric of the La Chappelle neighborhood in Paris and participates in its development. The five buildings are the same size as the adjacent ones, engaging in an interplay of fullness and void while preserving a sense of monumentality to the whole. On the street side, the three six-story volumes are separated by two gaps that provide access to the residence and ensure vertical circulation. Within the parcel, the buildings are more low-slung. The corridors and passageways that run through them create an architectural pathway due to the variation in environments and viewpoints. The courtyard defines the different buildings and is the true core of the project. It is a source of natural light for the buildings and provides a space for the students to gather and mingle. The duality of exterior and interior is also reflected in the choice of materials, in the black brick facing on the façade along the street and in the larch siding around the courtyard. The façades thereby participate in the creation of different atmospheres for the spaces they envelope and enclose.