Social Housing

Christian de Portzamparc with Giorgia Benamo
Rue des Hautes-Formes

Looking toward one entrance, signalled by the tall gate-like arch

This is the second housing development in the 13th arrondissement by the Pritzer-prize winning architect Christian de Portzamparc. See his elderly housing development. According to Andrew Ayers, this modest housing project (209 apartments) transformed French attitudes toward public housing; instead of high-density skyscrpers, this unmonumental approach was inspired by the typical Parisian city block, open at the center with structures on the periphery. In order to preserve the open spaces, the buildings did have to rise to twelve stories in some instances.
Instead of two towers (the initial plan), here the architect designed eight separate buildings and urban spaces uniting them. Instead of repetitive elements, Portzamparc varies the sizes and shapes of volumes and voids. Instead of assembly-line fenestration, here there are vatious types and sizes of windows.
Ayers comments on the effects of this project: "Many housing projects suffer from a 'ghettoization' problem, and by creating an internal square that is not strongly integrated into the surrounding urbanity and through which no one but residents has really any business to pass, the . . . architects arguably fell into just this trap. The internal square is not a private, gated garden in a swish development, nor it is an aimated public space. Instead it appears rather emptily forlorn and even slightly sinister, like a De Chirico painting" (213). I took these pictures on a late Saturday afternoon and saw absolutely no one from this project; it could have been a movie set.

Looking back toward the opposite entrance

Work Consulted:
Andrew Ayers. The Architecture of Paris. Stuttgart/London: Edition Axel Menges, 2004.

See Index for other works by Portzamparc.

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© 2007 Mary Ann Sullivan. I have photographed (on site), scanned, and manipulated all the images on these pages. Please feel free to use them for personal or educational purposes. They are not available for commercial purposes.