“Evolution”: A block of 145 apartments in Lyon

It is situated in an urban area undergoing a profound transformation and developing at a rapid rate, in close proximity to two major development projects: the Sergent Blandan park and the rue Garibaldi, which has been partly modified.

The GVB site is named after the three avenues that surround it: avenue Berthelot, route de Vienne and rue Garibaldi. This 1.7-hectare triangle of former industrial wasteland occupies a highly strategic location within the Lyon metropolitan area.

The urban planning study of this triangle conducted by Unanime Architectes suggested a need to increase density. 30,000 m2 is being built in three phrases, divided into three equal parts, each taken on by a different design team. It was in this context that the Atelier de la Passerelle agency was asked to design a block of 145 apartments to be sold under an affordable home ownership scheme: Evolution. The architects, 80% of whose work is made up of housing projects, have succeeded in combining density and diversity, by experimenting once again their signature housing “invariants”.

The urban planner’s perspective: Jacques Delattre, Associate Architect, Unanime Architectes:
Originally the industrial land authorised for industrial use was re-classified for mixed use for any type of programme. This lasted for two years. From an urban planning perspective, the aim was to build 30,000 m2 offering private housing, social housing, and accommodation for students and elderly people, as well as temporary accommodation for people in difficulty. The Atelier Anne Gardoni designed all the road systems, overseen by the Grand-Lyon local authority, as well as the gardens in each block. Each project was headed up by a different architect who had to meet both the architectural and the urban planning specifications. From an architectural point of view, each building had to consist of a basement, standard floors and an attic floor.

Density: perception and reality
In order to manage the size of the programme, the architects worked on the perception of scale in the project in order to exploit the difference between the perceived density and the actual density. They carefully studied and interpreted the local urban planning regulations in order to develop a project which avoids the pitfalls of linearity and homogeneity.

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First of all, the choice of a square structure divides the project into two well-balanced, complementary sections. The first is north-south facing and runs alongside a newly-built road, it is composed of standard apartments on standard floors (studio and one-bedroom flats to the north, two and three-bedroom flats to the south). The east-west facing section overlooks the interior access and is composed of large duplex apartments (two and three-bedroom with four-bedroom apartments on the attic floor).

The two scales play off each other creating a yin and yang effect with a clear overarching harmony. To the north, the main section of the building is characterised by the horizontality of the different levels, whereas to the east it is the verticals which stand out. Very few materials and colours are used. The white and charcoal grey echo from one section to another. Only the polycarbonate balcony separators, interspersed across the south facade, introduce a touch of colour.

To the north the vertical accesses create two large rifts within the facade. The staircases are deliberately put on show, half open, with the landings flooded with natural light. On the ground floor the through hallway is based on the same principle of dual height, offering a sense of both comfort and homeliness. The facade is criss-crossed with a network composed of a metal frame and grating supporting colourful plant pots. This gives the smaller apartments without balconies a form of outside space with a connection to the exterior.

At the bottom, small duplex apartments form the two-storey base of the building. These ground floor apartments have a direct access from the street with a kind of porch space, often seen in England, between the interior and exterior where bicycles can be stored and flowers grown in tubs. Slightly set back from the street they are hidden with vertical wooden slats giving them a private, residential feel.

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The southern facade, at the heart of the complex, is entirely different. Large balconies provide comfortable outside spaces. The yellow and orange polycarbonate balcony separators can be used for storage purposes and create screens between the apartments. These apartments overlook the private garden.

The successive balconies on the east-west low-rise create a layered effect, giving depth to the building. The use of grey brick echoes the Englishness of the porches on the north-facing side which accentuate the residential nature of the building and contrasts with the lighter colours of the north-south wing. The attic floor is split level over two floors, composed of rooftop houses which form a crenulated silhouette.

Working towards diversity
The architect’s perspective, Yann Cozon:
Through our architectural consultancy work, we have long been concerned with the concept of the quality of use. Use is the key to creating diversity. In the very codified world of housing, use is fundamental to developing the programme, the facades and the connections with the exterior. It also ensures the effects of piling on and filling up space are avoided. This is technically very complex as it means large numbers of apartments need to fit together without being superimposed.

This diversity of housing counters monotony and standardisation. It means that within one single project we can offer standard apartments, duplex apartments – even for the one-bedroom flats – and rooftop houses.

Applying the housing “invariants”
Thanks to their extensive experience, the architects have defined a certain number of “invariants” which constitute the starting point for each new housing project. These are based on an analysis of the main factors which contribute to quality of use. In terms of the composition of the facade, they involve limiting excessive continuity and dynamising the base by making a distinction between the apartments on the ground floor and on the standard floors.

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In the communal areas, they systematically include the design of a through hallway with a view from the street through to the centre of the complex. This creates a threshold between the street which is a public space, and the private space of the building. The landings are lit with natural light, as are the stairwells, which are often positioned on the facade, creating a dynamic and varying the possible routes.

For the building itself, the connections with the outside space are multiplied wherever possible: loggias, balconies, conservatories, green floors, French balconies etc.

Around the corner – “Le Pluriel”
In light of the firm’s desire to situate different projects in relation to each other we wanted to present another housing project: “Le Pluriel” . Situated in the angle between two streets, this project is divided into two buildings in order to create a gap which works as an interior courtyard at the centre of the project. A connecting patio ensures the urban continuity. This mixed programme is completed with the shops at the base of the building, the overall effect being that of an open block.

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