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Posts Tagged ‘posh neighborhood’

Photo: Jean-Christophe Quinton Architecte. Illustration: Stephanie Davidson.
“At street level,”
CityLab reports, “12 Rue Jean-Bart blends into its neighborhood. At the top, things get a little funky.” 

Blogger Laurie and I exchanged comments the other day about how neighbors with decent housing too often vote against building affordable housing nearby. True, even though we all know that forcing families into homelessness hurts us all.

A recent story about Paris, where the neighbors didn’t get to vote, shows that good architecture can enable what the French call “social” housing to be constructed in the most exclusive neighborhoods.

Marie Patino and Kriston Capps write at CityLab, “The project at 12 Rue Jean-Bart is a modest one, just eight units of affordable housing on a narrow lot in Paris near the Luxembourg Gardens. The social housing project nevertheless caused a stir with neighbors in the 6th arrondissement, one of the city’s more affluent areas.

“When local politicians backing the project came to visit the building during its construction, neighbors shouted from windows across the street that it was a shame to build social housing here, according to Jean-Christophe Quinton, the Paris-based architect who designed the small in-fill development.

“Local resistance was a persistent feature of the project throughout its three-year-long construction, Quinton says; the building regularly faced harsh scrutiny in local newspaper Le Parisien.

“Quinton responded to critics with design. The final building that emerged at 12 Rue Jean-Bart is striking: Its facade features great concave swoops of limestone, like ribbons of frosting atop a particularly elegant slab of cake. Yet in many ways, it’s a traditional project. The architect strived to make the building familiar: It’s finished with the same materials found throughout Paris and built to the same proportions as some of the 19th-century buildings on the street.

“ ‘We need to destigmatize social housing,’ Quinton told Bloomberg CityLab from his Paris design studio, his Zoom background cluttered with building models. ‘That’s also why it’s made out of stone, because it’s totally integrated into the city, to say that you can build social housing in Paris, and that’s a good thing.’

“Quinton says he’s learned that there’s no use trying to compete with the street in Paris, so 12 Rue Jean-Bart does its best to fit in amongst its neighbors, in a way that makes it almost invisible from afar. The design’s most dramatic gestures are reserved for the upper floors. At street level, the building’s curves look almost like classical fluted columns. Twin weight-bearing stone culs de lampe on each side of the front entrance, which support the corners of the building where the curves meet, are hidden feats of engineering. …

“Other details are traditional, too, and as typical of Paris architecture as possible. The white balconies and joinery at 12 Rue Jean-Bart are common in the city. So is the honey limestone, which comes from a quarry in Vassens, not far from the city. The scale of the project is simply driven by local building codes. The setbacks at the top of the building match those built during the mid-19th century. …

“For residents at 12 Rue Jean-Bart, the experience is rather dramatic. The building is narrower at the back than at street level, and each floor fans out from a central staircase column. The layouts of the upper-floor units with balconies shift dramatically from those below in order to maximize light while adhering to strict accessibility standards required by Paris codes — a challenge, given the limited size of the lot. The balconies provide a rhythmic frame for the street.

“The building’s been fully rented for almost a year now. The residents love it, according to the architect. And the neighbors have learned to live with it.

“ ‘From afar, you don’t see it, and up close, it has personality,’ Quinton says. ‘It’s a Parisian personality.’ ”

More at CityLab, here. No firewall.

Fellow bloggers who visit Paris: If you are ever in Rue Jean-Bart, do send us a picture of number 12.

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