Transformation of inner-city garage into ultra-sustainable community building
Many cities around the world have used the COVID-19 lockdown to introduce car-free infrastructure and improve the urban environment. In light of this development and in response to society’s mandate to combat climate change, Paris plans to cut half of its 140 000 parking spaces to make the city greener and more people-friendly. In addition, the City of Paris has undertaken a large-scale study to examine the transformation of inner-city garages.
Quartus Ensemblier Urbain
Residential and public facilities
When the former Citroën garage on the – by Haussmann designed – boulevard Avenue de la République in the 11th arrondissement of Paris came on the market, Mei together with Palissad Architectures and Quartus Ensemblier Urbain made a design for the transformation of this garage. The aim of this assignment was to reveal the potential of this site and the larger task in general by giving the building a new purpose in a sustainable and circular way.
Mei made a design with a combination of commercial spaces and bicycle program in the plinth, and housing above. The plan was presented in the form of a ten-point manifesto aimed at creating an ultra-sustainable building for an inclusive community, with as many existing materials as possible being reused in a circular fashion. This design for the transformed Citroën garage provides space for people who want to live within the charm of the historic city, with the contemporary mindset of the new generation.
On all fronts, the design is in line with the objectives of Paris. Just as the bicycle has been given a leading role in the streetscape of Paris, so it will be in this transformation. The building will be largely provided with social housing (60%), and has a focus on the sharing economy, in which the community is making joint use of spaces, tools and mobility. The renewed Citroën garage shows that new values can be embedded in a historic building.
1. Create shared spaces, mixed program, and encourage democratization of buildings
2. Promote diversity
The transformed garage lets the city in; literally and figuratively. On the ground floor, there will be a ‘Parisian’ passage connecting the street to the heart of the building. The plinth will contain a meeting place for the neighbourhood, with communal areas for locals and students, and a café. In addition, there will be a large public bicycle storage area and a workshop for bicycle repairs, which are unprecedented in France.
For lively programming, shops and activities will be developed in the heart of the block. Combined with the mix of social housing and owner-occupied flats, an inclusive community is created.
3. Avoid soil sealing and increase biodiversity
4. Protect and enhance vegetation and create green islands
5. Contribute to energy efficiency and carbon reduction
To contribute to more urban nature, the plan makes room for green squares and (roof) gardens. The rainwater will be collected and cleverly reused. The large opening in the garage’s south-western facade provides natural air circulation between the project and the adjoining block. Vegetation on the roofs and walls provides better thermal insulation and the creation of fresh, green islands with a pleasant climate – with pleasant humidity and lower temperatures. In addition, a communal vegetable garden will be created on the roof for the residents, and beehives, insect shelters and bird houses will be placed in various places.
6. Protect the heritage; design with respect for the immediate surroundings
7. Transform buildings and build in a circular way
One of the most important aspects of the design is the way the existing buildings are (re)used. As part of the history of the neighbourhood, the existing silhouette of the garage is preserved. The foundations, basement and ground floor are also preserved, as are the steel beams.
The demolished materials from the existing buildings are reused as much as possible in the new construction. As an example, the old, unusable floor sections from the garage are being ground up and used as ballast for the new floors.
The new facade design is a reinterpretation of the Haussmannian composition method of grid and arched windows. The new volumes are built against the adjacent façades, with an opening to the gardens of the buildings behind. In doing so, the views of neighbouring buildings and their quality are taken into account. A challenging task because of the prevailing building envelope, with its strict rules on daylight ingress and distance from the facades.
8. Promote an optimal, high-quality building site, with the least possible impact on the environment
To ensure that construction runs as smoothly as possible within the constraints of the city and to cause as little nuisance as possible to the neighbourhood, prefabricated and modular (mainly wooden) elements are used. This method of construction has several advantages: it is a fast and sustainable building method; because the materials are finished in the factory, a very high quality is guaranteed; the construction method is low-noise, so noise pollution for neighbours is kept to a minimum. In addition, reusing the existing materials, such as wood and steel, has an economic advantage, as less transportation is required.
9. Design flexible, scalable and modular
The new plan will be flexible in design. The Open Building principle – based on an open column structure without load-bearing walls – will be used so that the building can be adapted to the wishes of current and future users. The student residences can therefore be converted in the future into, for example, a hotel or a nursing home. The large bicycle shed can be transformed into a sports hall, co-working spaces, etc. This makes the building optimally future-proof.
10. Create collectivity and citizen participation
The new building offers many opportunities to bring the neighbourhood together and activate the people. There is, for example, room for temporary exhibitions on the ground floor, and a spacious art gallery on the upper floors that is visible from the courtyard. The transformed garage thus embraces the local initiatives of the community in its own way.