Perimeter block, courtyardPerimeter block, infill
rue l'Amiral Mouchez PLI Housing
Kagan, Michel | Paris, France | 2000
Image of rue l'Amir...
Partial Street Facade

Projectrue l'Amiral Mouchez PLI Housing
ArchitectKagan, Michel
Address62-68, rue de l'Amiral Mouchez/rue Gazan, (14th)
Building TypePerimeter block, courtyard
Perimeter block, infill
Number of Dwellings70
Date Built2000
Dwelling Types1, 2, & 3 BR flats, 3BR duplexes & Maisonettes
No. Floors9-10
Section Typeflats and maisonettes
Exterior Finish
pre-cast concrete, glass curtain wall, glass block, slate, metal panels
Construction TypeRC frame
Ancillary Servicesbasement parking

Michel Kagan is perhaps best known for a series of free-standing pure Modernist designs that include a technical and administrative complex in the pèriphérique zone of the 13th arrondissement, built in 1991, a group of artists' studios that were built as part of the Parc Citroën plan in 1992, and a new university building at the new town of Cergy-Pontoise, built in 1998. The Parc Citroën housing, a modest complex of 42 dwellings included 38 artists' ateliers and occupies a very prominent site at the corner of the black garden at the end of the diagonal path that stretches across the park. These buildings are stylistically similar and share an architectural pallet of white materials, a developed dialog between articulated frame and planar concepts, the use of extended planar elements to define space and delineate circulation and the use of a set of modernist materials and details including horizontal strip windows, glass block, metal pipe railings, the use of brise soleil, pilotis, toit jardins and other terrace elements, an interior spatial programme of prismatic cubic volumes, and the application of the concept of spatial transparency in the overall organization.

This very compact and dense complex of 70 dwellings continues the stylistic approach of the architect, but is here applied not to the design of a freestanding building, but to the design of a difficult infill site in an existing Paris block. Just off the east slope of Parc Montsouris, rue de l'Amiral Mouchez falls within the limits of the Haussmann zoning, but the site is dominated by 1960's and 70's buildings to each side that vary in height from 9 to 10 floors. The site is further complicated by the railroad tracks that pass through the block in an excavated ditch along the south edge. The idea of the site concept is to complete the surface of the perimeter block long the street, matching existing heights and horizontal spatial zones and create an landscaped courtyard on the interior of the block. Two lower wings define a narrow landscaped courtyard that extends into the block engaging retaining walls and backs of existing buildings that face rue Gazan above. The two side wings on the courtyard are detailed to achieve a degree of closure at the hillside end one of the extended wings ends in a 4-story terraced building that steps up to the level of rue Gazan at an elevation about 20' above the level of the court.

The street façade consists of two distinct elements that clearly reflect the zoning of the street heights and the plan organization. The first element, a 9-story slab, continues the height of the building to the north to an alignment with the south edge of the court. The second element aligns with the 10-story height of the existing building to the south. This block which continues the zone of the lower block along the courtyard, is detailed as a narrow tower that is separated from the lower 9-story slab by a deep slot that is the same width as the elevator core. The horizontal zoning of the buildings to either side are continued in the new facades as a very developed brise-soleil that is treated as an applied element to the glass curtain wall between the 2 and 7th floors. While the tower element does not have a brise-soleil, the face of the curtain wall is continued in the street façade of the tower and there is a zone of cantilevered balconies whose balustrades align with the brise-soleil. The top floors vary in height from 2 to 3 levels. These levels step back from the face of the street facade creating a zone of terraces and maisonettes with rounded stairs and taller spaces with large windows that corresponds to the roof zone of the typical Haussmann block. This zone at the top of both buildings is designed so that the different levels and zones in both overlap and interpenetrate resulting in a very layered and dynamic effect. A two story high zone at the bottom of the building responds to a zone of shops and building entrances along the street. The structure is expressed as a pilotis in this zone. Solid panels enclose part of the entrance lobby, but the courtyard beyond can be seen through the freestanding columns. An open gallery along the courtyard side of the building services a mezzanine level in the two-story high space of the pilotis. The brise-soleil is designed as a partially open structure so that parts of the horizontal surface of the slab are either cut away leaving an articulated frame or have horizontal panels of glass block in the surface of the terraces. This allows light to penetrate down through the brise-soleil from the top and results in a very light, transparent, architectonic structure that provides balcony space, but has very little solar value because of its orientation.

The lower floors of the two street buildings contain flats that are organized with living spaces facing the street and bedrooms facing the courtyard. The tower follows this basic zoning but has different apartment types. Two separate stair and elevator cores service the street buildings so that they function as two independent, point-access buildings. The two courtyard buildings are used for maisonettes, a single row and a partial upper row on the north side and a double row with an access gallery at the 3rd floor for the top dwellings. This line of dwellings is set back from the south edge of the site because of the railroad ditch. The southerly row is extended to the far west side of the site where it attaches to the terraced block that connects to the upper level and rue Gazan. The stair and connecting balconies in front of the existing retaining wall at the end of the courtyard help cover up the old stone wall here and give access to the upper apartments. The size, the spatial quality including the use of two story-high spaces, spiral stairs, terraces, windows and other details of these larger dwellings seem to be derived from the Citroën artists' studios. The usual critique of Modernist building has focused on its failure to adapt well to typical infill conditions. Although the context here was hardly old Haussmann and included buildings of the 60's and 70's, Mouchez, is a good example of the adaptive potential of the Modernist program, that it could perfectly well be used as the instrument of ameliorative change in a contextual situation.

Moniteur-architecture AMC, Dec-Jan, 2000-2001, pp. 174-77.

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