60 Housing Units and ShopsEdit profile
The site, Place Salengro in Dunkerque, was a rare opportunity to design an architectural project that could play its part in the urban construction of the city, and try to provide solutions to problems unresolved during previous phases of development. The key to the success of the project will lie in its capacity to generate pleasant living conditions and address urban constraints and transform them into advantages.
The first step was to open up the heart of the block to the city outside, a movement that produced separate entities that immediately enabled a logic of ‘qualitative participation’ in which each of the project’s elements enriches the others. The courtyard becomes a garden for the city, and the openings are public spaces punctuating the periphery of this environment. We concentrated part of the project’s surface area in a more vertical corner building that would lighten the other volumes. This enabled us to set the project’s scale and improve living conditions. The third stage involved defining the public/private, shops/car park/housing interface. Access to the buildings, circulation around the ensemble and the components of its public spaces were designed to be a sensorial experience. The housing units Our volumetric choice facilitated the conception of the housing units, now divided into four plots. The following figures will explain this better: Only ten of the 60 housing units have a single aspect and half of these are south-facing; 16 units have a triple aspect and 34 dual aspect; 11 have their own garden on the first floor and all have a have private exterior space (loggia). The project’s compactness renders the apartment plans more efficient and increases the surface area of the courtyard. Each housing unit typology has its entrance hall. The social housing units are on the north side and the owner-occupied units on the south side. Pedestrian access is also possible via the public steps leading up through the gaps in the buildings. Residents can therefore reach their apartment via the central forecourt on the first floor.
The apartments giving onto the forecourt have direct access to a private exterior space. The forecourt is conceived as a communal public space, a combination of greenery and leisure areas. Each of these housing unit typologies is deployed in two distinct buildings – social housing units to the north and private housing units to the south – guaranteeing each unit different aspects and views of the city. Materiality The project’s central location and its role as a fulcrum between several key points and historic districts in Dunkerque, demanded a sensitive approach to the materiality and image of this new architecture. Ideally, if the project is to be a valuable contribution the city’s urban fabric, it was vital that the facades could express a transition between the monumentality of the Belfry and the domesticity of the city’s traditional small houses. It was therefore necessary that these buildings should at least express a degree of abstraction, without this preventing perception of their use. In other words, is it possible to change the language of a housing project into something more generic?
The composition of the façade of an apartment building is dictated by the structure of the plan and each room’s need for natural light. True, this can produce marvellous examples, but only rarely can one efface the domestic identity of a residential building. The desire to achieve this mutation led us into a new phase of research, and a fundamental realisation enabled us to formulate the vocabulary we are now proposing: Dunkerque is a city of textures and motifs! The identity of Dunkerque’s public spaces is marked by this composite geometry. The project’s facades reflect this and, rather as if the city’s ‘floor’ had been raised to the vertical, our proposition crystallises this mineral, geometric composition. Using four modules and one material, this system enables a response to functional needs and gives the project a ‘monumental identity’.
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