MOUANS-SARTOUX – Located in a medieval town in the south-eastern corner of France, a social housing complex by Comte Vollenweider, brings a contemporary edge to the historic area. The Nice-based firm perceived a collection of building’s assembled to provide not only residential housing and courtyard gardens but also retail and social areas to be used by the wider community.

On a small site adjacent to a railway line, the buildings were positioned to reinforce the pedestrian link to the centre of the town. Presented with an open lot, the architects devised a creative solution to allow residents to control privacy. Cuboid concrete forms conceal the more publically exposed edges of the building. Full height windows enclose the ends of the stacked structures, which are selectively recessed to create voids for balconies. To complete the façade, large timber shutters capping the open balconies can be manipulated by occupants to contain or reveal the apartments within. The flexible coverings allow the balconies to transform into indoor slash outdoor spaces, offering an additional enclosed living space to the compact dwellings.

Retail spaces on the ground floor are situated at the junction between the pedestrian walkway and the street. A glazed enclosure distinguishes the public space from the private accommodations. Remaining space within the site were not wasted but instead transformed into communal planting areas, which in the future will surround the buildings with greenery, softening any remaining concrete with lush vegetation.

Photos courtesy of Milène Servelle

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