As part of a renovation program in Paris 14th arrondissement, an area near the Montparnasse railway station, this scheme demanded a specific architectonic vocabulary for its sensitive context, which would essentially respect the configuration of the existing urban fabric.
The baroque provides the language necessary for the shaping of uniquely concave spaces. Baroque style composition takes into account all the points of view in space. It prepares the way for the destruction of the rigidity established by the systematization of the building industry. By applying the essence of baroque architecture, here the façade is not treated as a mere wall.
As a starting point, pursuant to our respect for the street, for the urban context we sought to break the flat surfaces and to find a system of plans which were governed by a twofold restriction. Namely they had to comply with the urban pattern and to take shape in relation with the interior space. The interplay of these two requirements led us to deform the grid, while at the same time maintaining a rational system of structural implantation. Thus the rationality, while definitely necessary, ceases to be obsessive. It is present, but so interiorised that it can barely be perceived.
Les Echelles du Baroque consists of a building apartment surrounding a circular plaza which, by its axial condition, encloses the project perspectives; behind this space, two clearly differentiated apartment blocks define two additional plazas: one elliptical and the other amphitheatre-shaped.
As in the Italian Baroque plazas, the façades define an elliptical urban space. For these façades, RBTA used a curtain wall with glass columns that become the bow-windows of the apartments, which add rhythm to the design.
The three buildings contain 274 apartments over seven floors with a basement, which can provide level park space for 300 cars. The ground floor is partially occupied by shops, offices and workshops.
The geometry of the building is based on the juxtaposition of modules (housing units), which are placed so as to follow the urban pattern.
The basic module of an apartment corresponds to a surface of approximately 65 sqm, which is the average floor space of a two-bedroom apartment. It is obtained by the juxtaposition of two 6 x 6-meter squares.
The division into squares facilitates the rational separation into day and night spaces, with preference given to a large living room in one square. The divided space of kitchen, bathroom and bedroom is located in the other square.
The addition of a module, or half module, satisfies the demand of the program as far as an apartment size is concerned (from studio to five rooms), and their superimposition creates a duplex apartment.
The treatment of the apartment interiors, through graphic means and the choice of materials, seeks to restore “lost quality”. Walls and dividers of tinted plaster emphasize the space by means of motifs either in depth or in relief. These motifs are borrowed from the classical architectural vocabulary. They include window and door architraves, plinths, mouldings and pilasters. All apartment units benefit from a double exposure. The living rooms face the interior space.
The façade of the elliptical plaza is a curtain wall punctuated by glass columns, two meters in diameter, which enhance each apartment by providing them with bow windows. The façade marks out an interior space (as in Italian baroque squares) covered with a vast lawn – organic carpet for an interiorized exterior. A balustrade around the perimeter incorporates a whole play of urban furniture, such as benches, planters and street lighting.
On the ground of the amphitheatre-shaped space, mineral and vegetable elements are integrated. The round part – the “theatre” itself – is built of organic tiers. The stage is Baroque in spirit and made of stone.
The façades are treated in prefabricated panels of architectonic concrete. The vocabulary borrows from the history of architecture a conventional play of elements such as doors, windows, columns and pilasters. Their combination permits a diversity of architectonic scripts and scales, thereby engendering various interpretations anchored in the spatial experience of the culture.
In this project, a tension is thus maintained between interior space and exterior forms. The facade sets the stage for the city. It is no longer a wall with openings. Made up of straight lines as well as flat and voluminous curves, the façade brings all the elements into play.