28 Social Housing Units in Courbevoie / by Koz architectes

In 2007, Groupe 3F and the Courbevoie Town Council launched a competition for a social housing project on the last remaining plot in the urban development zone of Les Fauvelles. The instructions given to the teams were as follows: « the project must present new approaches for social housing in densely occupied urban settings». Our proposal was selected over those offered by SOA Architectes and LAN Architecture.

The right response to the right question

From the start, the exercise involved defining the intrinsic qualities of individual housing, with a view to adapting them to collective living. Four such qualities seemed to us to be essential:

Quality of use

Flexibility is the key strength of individual housing: you do as you please in a house, and you feel fully “at home”. You can change how you use bedrooms and living areas as your family grows, and depending on the lifestyle and hobbies of each family member: the spare room becomes a nursery when a new child is born, a small bedroom is converted into an office, a growing teenager moves into the bedroom next to the living room because he prefers to be separate from the sleeping area used by the rest of the family, a wall is knocked down to make an open-plan kitchen, you can put a green house in the garden or play music in the garage.

You can walk around it

Being able to walk around the outside of a house gives people a particular sense of belonging. But circumnavigability also involves the presence of various kinds of external features: front lawns, courtyards, gardens, terraces, etc.

A house is supposed to be unique

It looks different from the others; you can recognize it when you look down the street; you can point it out. It is individual, and it also has an individualizing effect that strengthens one’s sense of belonging

In a house, you have neighbours

Your neighbours remain for a long time, and with them you gradually form bonds: you chat over the hedge, you do each other favours, your children play together. Neighbours build a relationship of mutual trust.

Once this initial exercise had been carried out, our aim was now to apply these 4 cardinal virtues of the individual house to a collective housing project. The building forms part of the urban development zone called Les Fauvelles in Courbevoie, a stone’s throw from the skyscrapers and frenzied activity of the La Défense business district. All around, the 12-storey residential buildings in the Faubourg de l’Arche development zone form both a skyline and an urban clearing. Behind it stands a building belonging to a French car manufacturer.

The project consists of two units with rather undefined outlines, further blurred by the criss-crossed green strengthening rods that have been used as sculptural guardrails for the various walkways and loggias. Opting for two buildings instead of one enabled us to increase the surface area of the façades, to give an enhanced feeling of transparency, to ensure a variety of orientations and views, and also to get closer to the more intimate qualities of use and scale characteristic of individual houses. Both units are built on a sculpted base and stand out against the sky like a pair of funny giants reaching out to each other.

1. Quality of use

The key feature is that flats with at least 4 rooms have a white cantilevered cube affixed apparently at random to the façade. This contains a room “plugged into” the living room whose use can change according to the desires and changing size of the family unit. Its partition wall is not load-bearing and can be removed with the agreement of the owner (and who knows, maybe in 50 years the tenants will have become the owners). This extra room gives the living space flexibility and elasticity.

All the flats have a triple aspect and living rooms all have two aspects; most are corner rooms. All rooms including bathrooms have natural light. Underfloor heating has been used, and the wood and aluminum window surrounds are fully watertight. Every flat has its own loggia, an outside space that has a ready-made screen (reminiscent of the reed screens often used on balconies in France) for added privacy: the space can be used as a greenhouse, a conservatory, a DIY workshop, a fitness area, etc. This freely usable space can be used in a similar way to a basement, an attic or a courtyard: features that are generally characteristic of individual houses.

2. Circumnavigability

Private walkways run round the apartments and are directly accessible from all rooms, including the bedrooms and kitchen. This means you can walk round your ‘house’, take strategic shortcuts, play hide-and-seek, and play tricks on people. Access to each apartment is via a wide suspended open-air landing that affords views of the entire volume of the living space. This means that the building has a number of different exterior spaces (loggias, balconies, and landings), which increase the usable surface area and give residents the impression of living in the open air, with uninterrupted vistas of western Paris.

3. Individualisation

Each flat is instantly recognizable from outside; the buildings have different outlines, volumes appear loosely structured, and the stepped, irregular shapes have an almost random feel.

4. Neighbourliness

Behind the design of these residential units lies a firm belief in sociability. Each landing serves two units (except on the first floor, which is given over to small flats) hoping that they will extend their social life on the concrete boardwalk that gives access to the staircases and hosts a flower shop and a small scale kindergarten ; landings are very large (10 sq m, three times the usual size) and thus can easily be used in a variety of ways. Because they are set well back, any items placed on the landings will not affect the integrity of the la facade or the building’s overall appearance.

Groupe 3F
159 rue Nationale
75638 Paris Cedex 13
Chef de Projet :Stéphanie Demeure dit Latte

KOZ architectes / member of the collective Plan01
Christophe Ouhayoun – Nicolas Ziesel
89 rue de Reuilly
75012 Paris
project manager :
Elsa Junod

Structure: EVP Ingénierie
fluides: Cferm
Economist: Cabinet Ripeau
Acoustic: Peutz
Sustainability: Bio-concept

Zac des Fauvelles,
75-83 avenue de l’Arche
ilot B 23
92 400 Courbevoie – France

Gros oeuvre: KILIC
Ravts: Fernandes
Facade: Fernandes
Frame: Bourgogne couverture
Etanchéité: SAS
Windows opening: S.T.B.A
Walls: FARIA
Floor / paintings: DE SOUSA
Metal work: Atelier De Pierre
Services: A.C.P.C
Electricity: Paternoster
Lift: OTIS

Concours: mai 2007
Construction time: 20 month
Completion: septembre 2010

28 housing units

Floor area housing: 2 378,00 m2
Floor area retail: 440 m2
28 housings: 8 F2, 10 F3, 7 F4, 3F5
28 parking places

4 356 734,66 € HT
housing: 3 806734,66 €
retail: 550 000,00 €
No demolitions

Key points
The complex comprises 28 apartments, a shop, a business premises and a basement for parking. Reinforced concrete structural system. Coloured high-density laminated panels. Rain-water collection, planted roof, heated flooring, external wood/aluminium joinery, loggia and private walkways for all apartments.

Environmental quality
THPE RT2005: 70 kwh/m2/year; systematic exterior insulation, including parapet; thermal bridge breakers; heated flooring; natural lighting of all rooms and stairwells; double or even triple orientation, corner living room; maximization of glazed surfaces; air permeability tested in accordance with Effinergie requirements.

For more information: www.koz.fr/indexhibit/