The migrant shelter on the Rue des Arbustes in Paris’ 14th district has been completely transformed into social housing. The building is owned by the COALLIA group, and its transformation has been a part of the Plan for the Treatment of Migrant Workers’ Shelters. This metamorphosis is thanks to plans by Calq Architecture and construction by the BATEG enterprise (an affiliate of VINCI Construction France). The project combines great attention to design (including the modification of the building’s façade and a new layout) with technical prowess (including asbestos removal and thermal insulation and solar energy).
New Spaces Link Privacy with Conviviality
After the redistribution of the building’s seven floors of interior space, 156 individual and autonomous studios were built. The studios are replacing large, collective rooms that used to hold close to 270 residents at night. Now, most of the studios range from 14-20 square meters, while the 19 larger, handicap-accessible studios are 27-31 square meters. Each studio has a bathroom with separate toilet, a kitchenette, and a sleeping area. On the ground floor, there are collective spaces, including a reception room, a multi-purpose room, a job-training room, and a cafeteria. These spaces are meant to promote the development of social life between residents and, eventually with neighbors outside the building, as a public restaurant is set to open in the building at some point during 2015.
The distinguishing architectural choice made regarding the building is the radical transformation of its facade. The changes have allowed the building to better blend into its urban surroundings. Swaths of the building that were previously decorated in a sawtooth pattern were replaced by a series of playful boxes that add livable surface area to the studios inside. The judicious use of iridescent aluminum panels along the southern-facing wall creates a chromatic show of colors depending on the position of one walking past.
Particular care was given to the interior decorating of the communal spaces in order to affirm the “residential” character of the building. This included re-surfacing the floors and walls and designing signage especially for the building. In the reception room and the cafeteria, art inspired by traditional motifs welcomes the residents. Going along with the building’s theme of co-development, the project manager and the project management team decided to hire Burkinabe artisans to create figurative bronze statues for the space. The sculptures evoke the relationship that Coallia wishes to maintain with the building’s migrant workers. They also reference the association’s roots. (Coallia was founded in 1962 during the period of decolonization in order to help migrant workers coming from sub-saharan Africa.)
An Innovative Work Site
This restoration was planned and orchestrated to respond to a complex list of needs. There needed to be a phase for removing asbestos, another to reinforce supporting walls, and another for communicating with the residents. The building is an example of green design, and has been certified as a BBC (a building with low energy consumption) renovation. It benefits from state-of-the-art technology, including improvements to wall isolation. Thanks to the installation of solar panels on the roof, the building can also produce its own sanitary hot water.
How has your city used design to improve life for marginalized populations like migrant workers?
Original article, originally published in French, here.
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.