11.2.2014

Maison “A house as a small town”, in France

Less than half an hour’s drive west from Paris’ city center, designed as an extension of a private residence to an 18th-century structure, sought to provide every family member with a private realm.

The roughly 5000 m2 plot of old trees called for a project (616 /926 m2 gross area) that would leave the spacious ground predominantly untouched to ensure a minimal impact on the mature landscape.

Local building codes only allow one single building with a gabled or hipped roof. However, in exceptional cases, flat roofs, as long as they do not exceed 25m2 each (garages), can be provided. Thus, projecting above the accessible planted roof five tower-like volumes have been argued and actually implemented. Positioned to frame a specific perspective of the site, each flat-roofed, eight-meters-high concrete “tower“ houses a dressing room and storage space (0), bathroom (1) and a bedroom (2). This vertical topology induces a natural ventilation. An important air circulation favours the extraction of hot air in summer, whereas, in winter, the upper areas don’t require additional heating.

The design foresaw an amorphous plinth storey with curved stone walls (slate) heaped up with earth and used as a general living area. There emerges a completely “superfluous” space without specific functional qualities. As if a toothpaste-tube-like device could absorb all programmatic, psychological and urban design requirements. Here, most various and adoptable uses become imaginable and consequently possible – a superfluousness revealing necessary.

House and landscape are intimately interwoven, boundaries between indoors and outdoors are blurred. The south-eastern facade emerges out of a complex topography between the house and its landscape. Carved towards every entrance in the glazing the river-bed-shaped, undulating terrain distorts, blending the construction into nature.

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