PARIS – Barren, stark and inaccessible, the concrete ‘Square Vitruve’ real-estate project in Paris took no account of the human scale, the benefits of vegetation or social urban design. A product of the 1970s and ‘80s, the development didn’t consider the city or how people use it.

Atelier du Pont – in dialogue with the city’s council and inhabitants - rehabilitated a seriously degraded building with fifty-six social housing units in the square. The renovation is in line with Paris City Council’s Climate Plan as well as the ongoing urban renovation project for the Saint-Blaise.

Atelier du Pont conducted solar studies for the project to assess how sunlight entered the building as well as the effect of overshadowing from surrounding buildings. The architects added balconies to parts of the building where this made sense, which gave inhabitants outdoor areas and updated the façade.

The project had unique restrictions – no cranes or other heavy machinery were allowed on the concrete slab surrounding the building and all additions had to be made within the constraints of the existing structure. Balconies are suspended from the roof, and all materials and technical solutions were designed to avoid overloading the existing structure and disrupting residents’ daily lives.

The old building ‘wears’ the new façade. A rectangular design respects the existing architecture, embracing the ‘Paris stone’ colour of surrounding buildings and maintaining similar dimensions. The orthogonal design respects the context, while maintaining dynamism as it is broken up by voids and transparency in the panels.

Balconies and screens give the building a bit of a Mediterranean look which might seem out of place in Paris, but which nonetheless serves a larger urban function by opening up the building to the street while maintaining privacy for residents.

Revealed structure becomes part of façade design. Balconies and modular panels add dynamism to the façade as well as to the static urban landscape. They also give residents much needed usable outdoor spaces.

The ground floor is glazed and more responsive to the urban environment than surrounding buildings in the area creating a strong architectural identity that fosters diversity, improves building energy performance and imagines new uses for urban space.

Photos courtesy of Luc Boegly