The competition winning proposal for the Terrace 9 Housing Complex in Nanterre, France by Atelier Zündel Cristea aims to restore the human scale and legibility necessary for creating large and enjoyable public spaces, capable of attracting people from beyond the city and the Hauts de Seine region. They do this by taking into account the urban project’s varying relief, both natural and artificial, with the coexistence of road and rail transportation networks and the structures of colossal scale such networks required.
Extending out from the axis of La Défense, the site encompasses an exceptionally vast terrain, in which a train classification yard, railroad site, segment of highway, areas used for unregulated parking, all remain to be urbanized. The urban block making up the project is bounded to the north by an “uncommon walkway,” the artificial garden that covers the RER A suburban train tunnel, to the south by the 9th Terrace, to the east by a staircase with vegetation, and to the west by the Boulevard des Provinces Françaises. The block is comprised essentially of residential housing and premises for businesses and activities. At this precise spot, the RER A resurfaces from underground, strongly conditioning the future architectural project.
The block is within Nanterre’s municipal 9th Terrace, measuring around 113 meters by 21m wide. With the intention of avoiding an effect of mass, the building specifications describe procedures for the cutting and sequencing of volumes. To these various rules of building positioning, we propose a simple response: an organization of three principal volumes stemming from a large common base structure (ground floor + 3). Their dimensions in design allow the development of the maximum quantity of residential housing and activity space, equipped with double orientation. The Nanterre Terraces is an urban project distinguished by its character at once monumental and scenic, its public space adapting to the city’s layout, in play with the surrounding landscape. We propose an architecture that adapts to this urban and programmatic context in better assuming and responding to the project’s multiple challenges.
One of the principal challenges of the project is the creation of a new identity for the neighborhood. This involves a coherent architectural expression distinguishing itself clearly from neighboring La Défense. The architectural work that we propose takes into account the general criteria of pleasure and quality of life. The challenge is to devise efficient and desirable collective residential housing, producing the most generous, accessible, and comfortable amount of space around each structure.
Our project entails two architectural sequences, clearly differentiated and recognizable: The first sequence is composed of “an urban building”, continuous with the multifunctional base. This building, designed in L volume, serves as the prove of the whole, expressing in this fact the project’s urban character. Sharply exposed to Boulevard des Provinces Françaises and to the noise of the RER, this urban building conveys a monolithic air, solid and reassuring. Its qualities and its reassuring aspect will be determined by the rigor of its bay window design, the choice of materials for its facades, the utilization of colors resistant to blackening and urban pollution. Viewed from the terraces below, the facades will play with the contrast between their clear, luminous frames and supporting brick lintel siding.
The second architectural sequence is composed of “two landscaped buildings” gently positioned on the base. In their unfolding, the two landscaped buildings will be in contrast to the first sequence. Entirely destined for the use of housing, the two towers will unfold in a series of stacked terraces, in direct relation with the gardens surrounding. The terraces of extended, double height will permit the planting of significant amounts of greenery, as well as creating a gradual transition from the exterior space of the city to the interior of the residences. In this architecture there is no notion of a principal or street or garden facade. The two buildings face gardens on all sides.
Our architectural project is not limited to volumes and facades. It takes into account the quality of life of its users, the questions and interests of management, and environmental quality. And as this last concern is often measured via the durability of buildings, by their flexibility in assuming new functions and usages, we have kept forefront in mind their capacity to evolve and adapt.
The Nanterre Terrace 9 block makes up a coherent whole, responding to its programmatic needs at each level. The facades present with clarity the project’s two primary concepts: the base with its continuous building expresses the urban element, while the two buildings express the more spontaneous element of the landscape.
Architects: Atelier Zündel Cristea
Location: Nanterre, France
Client: Bouygues Immobilier
Contractors: Bouygues Bâtiment/Cardonnel
Cost: 20 M€ (before tax)
Surface: 12,200 m²
Mission: Study + Construction
Project: 140 new residential housing units, cultural facility, business centre
Environmental Approach: BEPAS/BEPOS Building