New university student housing in Paris-Saclay by Bruther and Baukunst gives comfort and ease in an eerie landscape of corporate enlargement and disused agrarian plots
To attain the pupil housing made by Bruther’s Stéphanie Bru (Bru-) and Alexandre Theriot (-ther) in collaboration with Belgian follow Baukunst (Adrien Verschuere) 20km south of Paris, a collection of spatial and architectural thresholds are crossed. The to start with takes the form of an hour-lengthy journey from Gare du Nord and as a result of the abundant landscape of the city’s southern banlieue. Just like in London, there is a peculiar environment in the south of Paris that is calmer and quirkier than the rest of the town. Leaving the town behind at the little quasi-rural station of Lozère and going for walks uphill by means of the woods is a bucolic practical experience that is abruptly interrupted when the plateau at the major of the slope reveals a sea of brand-new corporate properties.
The US-design and style campus of Paris-Saclay is a cluster-in-the-earning of significant-profile universities and non-public and community organisations that is touted as the ‘French Silicon Valley’ or the ‘French Palo Alto’. Dropped in the middle of agricultural lands, this is a New City of kinds that has been expanding steadily for the past 15 yrs, offering a mix of bland, equivalent-looking and instantly neglected buildings mixed with far more ambitious and showy starchitect layouts by the likes of Renzo Piano Building Workshop (École Normale Supérieure), OMA (CentraleSupélec), and Grafton Architects (Institut Mines-Télécom). Concerning these structures are vacant roadways, deserted websites, voids ready for the up coming projects, and rarely any people today – it is a period of university holiday seasons just after all.
Click listed here to download drawings
Isolated in the landscape, Bruther and Baukunst’s scholar housing stands out by dint of its physicality and peculiar define. The building’s thoroughly clean silhouette – it could be represented in a few pencil strokes – is a considerably cry from some of the exaggerated ‘futuristic’ structures close by, which feel to endure from an acute around-reliance on CAD and BIM computer software. The 70m-very long jap aisle is topped with six 50 percent-circles, moreover two quarter-circles on each and every extremity. Pastel curtains in light-weight banana yellow, blush-purple, lapis blue and teal comprise a vibrant facade, symbolically turning a domestic cloth threshold intended for privacy, darkness and insulation into an architectural factor in its very own ideal. The colors convey Le Corbusier’s Cité Radieuse in Marseille to head, when the arches evoke London’s Barbican Estate by Chamberlin, Powell and Bon. The motifs, the references, the materials – mainly concrete – evidently position the creating in the language of modernist architecture. This is strengthened by the parking areas that occupy two basements, but also the first and second floors. Open and bounded by a translucent frosted guardrail, these surface to cite the open up ground of Le Corbusier’s Dom-Ino Household.
‘In among these properties are vacant roads, deserted sites, voids waiting for the following projects’
The parking spaces on the upper floors are meant to be functional: when time will come to get rid of the autos in Saclay and host extra students, the initial and 2nd storeys will be retrofitted for lodging. In entrance of the most important entrance on Boulevard Gaspar Monge, mammoth pillars have been erected in pairs, a several metres apart, and continue on into the distance as considerably as the eye can see, throughout the vacant roads and the fields – it appears to be like like they are supporting an invisible deck. Inevitably, they will be section of the viaduct of the new line 18 of the Métro, which is thanks to open up listed here in 2026 and which will move ideal by the building’s initially floor. These two vehicle parking flooring, remaining hollow, carry lightness to the building’s design and style and are served by a generous, almost playful double-helix ramp that roundly disrupts the strict facade – the planned retrofitting may well remove some of the architecture’s allure.
Past the exterior gate and into the internal yard, the helicoidal motif is repeated with two emergency staircases in sanded concrete. The building’s three 7-storey aisles are organised all over an open patio, in trying to keep with the neighbourhood’s masterplan by Belgian architect Xaveer de Geyter, who imagined a continuity of shut and open environmentally friendly areas encouraged by university campuses in the US. But for now, it opens onto a wasteland, exactly where the lush vegetation of the patio little by little spills through a metal fence.
Click on below to download drawings
The eco-friendly interior lawn presents constrained messiness: it is fluffy all around the edges with a neat patch of grass in its centre. The hue of this luxuriant garden contrasts nicely with the cream concrete all all over, and the pastel curtains, but also with the uncanny landscapes outside of the building’s boundaries: dry, yellow, parched. Inspite of its charm for people, this synthetic oasis also epitomises the absurdity of the grand designs of French politicians and planners, who have coated the region’s most fertile agricultural land with concrete in purchase to convert it into a ‘green’ US-fashion campus.
There is one thing sober, virtually monastic, in Bruther and Baukunst’s pupil housing that could be off-putting to readers or potential people. It is partly joined to the thought of scholar existence and its commitment to studying, but it also comes from the austerity of the components. Steel is applied extensively, like for the fitted kitchens and slim metal staircases – the third repetition of the helicoidal motif – that equip the top rated duplex flats intended for flat sharing, but it is in particular the omnipresence of béton brut, equally within and exterior, that is putting. A product whose ecological credentials are controversial, concrete remains commonly applied in France but typically concealed powering plaster or cladding – listed here it is on display screen, together with its problems and roughness. (And of course, the ‘Bruthalism’ joke is tempting.)
‘The motifs, the references, the materials – primarily concrete – evidently position the building in the language of modernist architecture’
On my pay a visit to, there is no 1 all-around apart from the cleansing staff members bit by bit wandering via the vacant areas. And still the ambiance is heat, comfy. The mosaic of colored curtains is repeated on the facades inside of the garden, but inhabitants have applied them to reclaim their non-public areas, building knots or removing the initially colored curtain to keep only a next silver one particular that is in all probability intended for insulation and opacity. Irrespective of the residents’ absence, there is so substantially daily life oozing from this making: outfits lying close to, personal objects, cigarettes still left in ashtrays, crops, and a generous number of empty beer and wine bottles.
Heading back to Paris on the line B of the RER, make sure to get off at Cité Universitaire, the to start with quit previous the Périphérique, which acts as the city’s infamous threshold. The intercontinental campus, which was motivated by England’s backyard garden city motion and initially opened in 1925, is a one of a kind room in Paris: a mosaic of neoregionalist architecture rubbing shoulders with modernist designs, together with two buildings by Le Corbusier (the pavilions for Switzerland and Brazil, the latter with Lúcio Costa). In 2018, Bruther made an additional student housing project below, a single of three new buildings extra to the internet site for the first time given that the 1960s. This and the venture at Saclay have quite a few components in frequent: bare concrete, a transparent glass envelope, curtains as a essential architectural factor, an architecture on stilts.
‘The mosaic of colored curtains is recurring on the facades going through the yard, but citizens have made use of them to reclaim their particular spaces’
But wherever the Saclay job was structured by horizontal thresholds, the Cité Universitaire responds to the constraints of the hyper-density of Paris and a elaborate terrain by adopting vertical kinds: bridges, voids, concentrations. To walk the two campuses, the tidy English back garden city-encouraged ‘Cité U’ vs . Saclay’s expansive US dream, is to experience two spatial imaginaries – each is an amalgamation of yesterday’s tomorrows in its own way. The Saclay undertaking shows the same paradoxes as the campus it is part of, which is futuristic and superficially retro at the identical time.
The landscape of the ‘French Palo Alto’, a model-new metropolis that has by now started off to decay while waiting for its to start with inhabitants, is an image of today’s modernity but also that of postwar modernism. However putting aside the model of urbanism it serves, Bruther and Baukunst’s undertaking is undeniably charming, classy, intelligent and at ease. The bare sophistication of this joyful convent makes an irresistible desire to settle down, review possibly, party for positive, and pull open up the enormous curtains to ponder the eerie landscape of Paris-Saclay in the producing.
Resource website link