Perimeter block, cornerPerimeter block, infill
ZAC Moskowa
Barre, Gilles, Loeiz Caradec, Francoise Risterucci | Paris, France | 1998
Image of ZAC Moskow...
View of the garden side of the buildings at the end of the block.

ProjectZAC Moskowa
ArchitectBarre, Gilles, Loeiz Caradec, Francoise Risterucci
AddressPassage du Poteau/Passage Saint-Jules (18th)
Building TypePerimeter block, corner
Perimeter block, infill
Number of Dwellings47
Date Built1998
Dwelling Types1, 2, & 3 BR flats
No. Floors4-6
Section Typeflats
Exterior Finish
plaster, ceramic tile, stone, metal window , roll-down blinds
Construction TypeRC frame
Ancillary Servicesbasement parking

The periphérique zone that developed around Paris during the period of the Thier walls was often a very fragmented edge of random streets, narrow alleys, odd-shaped blocks, and buildings of different heights and styles. This group of 47 apartments was built in one of these districts along the north edge of the Thier boundary, near Port de Clignancourt. Part of a larger Zone d'Aménagement Concerté, this project is built at the corner of two narrow passages and forms the perimeter corner on a trapezoidal îlot.

The site concept is defined by two different building types, a 6-story slab along the street, and a row of three, semi-free-standing, 4-story stepped, terraced towers that stand in the open space on the interior of the block. Thus, two Modernist housing paradigms, the slab and the tower, are combined and applied in the context of a traditional perimeter block typology. The slab provides a dense planar urban wall along the very narrow Passage du Poteau while the towers stand as sculptural objects in the park along the south side of the wall. The pinwheel towers are lower in height, spaced apart and step in section in response to the southern exposure and to ensure the penetration of light into the south side of the slab. This arrangement forms small, south facing courtyards between towers. Dwellings in the slab are organized around three vertical circulation stacks. The slab is arranged with small rooms facing the street while the living spaces open to the garden spaces between towers. Larger flats are located in the stepped, pinwheel form of the towers and open to roof terraces overlooking the garden areas. Slab and towers are connected by narrow covered bridges. This connected relationship results in a repetitive organization in both slab and tower that is expressed as a concatenated repetitive group of elements that includes the tower, the circulation lobby, the bay-window projection of the living spaces of the slab, the bridges, and the architectural divisions of the street facade. The continuous terrace at the top floor of the slab suggests a transparent alignment with the height of the towers on the opposite side of the slab.

The slab together with the most westerly tower forms the end to the block along the very narrow side alley. Here the side of the first tower and the end elevation of the slab are manipulated to create a large frontispiece that defines a secondary entrance to the complex from this alley. This passageway extends along the backside of the slab, beneath the connecting bridges, passing through the solid-void arrangement of the towers and courtyards. (Another example of a similar parti can be seen in O.M. Unger's Asternweg Apartments in Cologne of 1963). The main building entrances are along the street, but this provides another entry for the ground floor dwellings. The garden areas are enclosed minimizing ground floor security problems. Security is more of a problem for rooms facing the very narrow arcade along the street and a low wall has built here to provide some distance from the windows of the rooms the face the street.

The facades are white and planar, but layered with zones of windows and projecting wall elements to reflect the repetitive organization. This suggests an organization of applied shallow layers and single small punched openings, continuous horizontal bands, full-height openings at the terraces, narrow bands of clerestory windows, and as a medium to articulate corners. The layered quality is further emphasized by the use of different materials, ceramic tile on some of projecting balconies, colored stucco on recessed surfaces, and painted columns where structure is exposed. Integral shutters and balustrades add further detail to the windows. Plaster and aluminum windows and metal railings are the dominant materials, however the stone wall along the sidewalk is clad in dark stone.

ZAC Moskowa is a compelling prototype for use in typical perimeter block applications. The change in scale from street to garden retains many of the spatial qualities of the typical îlot, while achieving realistic housing densities. The treatment of the corner--simultaneously front and end--successfully circumvents the problems typical of the use of zeilenbau paradigms. It is a shame that the street arcade is so narrow and that the complex is only 3 bays long, but this is more of a commentary on the overall ZAC planning process and restrictive site conditions than a critique of the architects' intentions.

Techniques et Architecture, Feb. 1999, p. 77.

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