A Street Block en miniature: Apartment House in Paris
Architects: Karawitz Architecture
Location: Paris (FR)
Over the past two decades the banks of the Canal de l’Ourcq, which leads from the centre of Paris to the Parc de la Villette, has become a preferred party district in the French capital. At the same time the 19th arrondissement is one of Paris’ few neighbourhoods that is still affordable.
The studio Karawitz Architecture has now built a residential and commercial structure featuring 23 apartments and 2 shopfronts on a prime piece of real estate. It is surrounded by small side streets on three sides: the Quai de la Marne on the bank of the canal, the Rue de la Meurthe and the Rue de l’Ourcq, which crosses the canal on a footbridge set higher than the other streets. What this means: three sides have an unblockable view in the direction of the canal, to the Parc de la Villette and towards the centre to the Rotonde de la Villette.
Originally, one of the few building consortiums created in Paris had kept its eye on the plot and commissioned the architects with a design – one comprising only 14 apartments. When the execution took longer than expected, the city refused the clients any further support. The clients then turned to the apartment-building enterprise OGIF in order to carry through their project after all. They declared themselves willing to continue working with Karawitz Architecture, increased the building volume to the largest size permitted on that parcel of land and sacrificed the communal space planned for the ground floor in favour of a further apartment.
The seven-storey new structure occupies only the canal side of the plot. To the back, facing southeast, there is now a community garden. A suggestion of a seam divides the building in half. This seam functions as an open linking axis with an elevator and a sculptural spiral staircase with a balustrade of steel sheeting. One and two-room apartments join onto both sides; only the attic apartments are bigger. In the meantime, a shop and a brewery pub have moved into the ground-floor spaces.
On the outside, the apartment house shows two radically different faces: the façades along the canal and the two side streets are almost playful. With their alcove-like balconies, wood-clad folding shutters, the typical Parisian mansard roof and large dormers, they look like an exaggerated version of the city’s block-edge architecture from the Haussmann era. The façades have been clad in anthracite-coloured wood. The roofs and dormers are covered in zinc sheeting of the same colour.
In contrast, the garden side of the house is all straight lines. With its white plastering and narrow balcony strips, it almost seems like someone had retroactively cut a window opening into a firewall.