The italian architectural firm Scape, established in 2002 by architects Ludovica Di Falco, Francesco Marinelli, Paolo Mezzalama and Alessandro Cambi, has designed a multifunctional building on rue Paul Meurice in Paris. The commission was entrusted to Scape by the Heritage and Architecture Department (DPA) of France, after having won the competition organized by the City of Paris.
The building was constructed respecting the objectives of energy rating and sustainability required by the Parisian administration, and has been built in the “urban development zone” (ZAC) of Porte des Lilas, an area that aims to change the urban relations, particularly the inner side of Boulevard Périphérique and neighboring municipalities.
The building appears as a compact volume from outside, while inside it is a dynamic system which naturally meets the requirements of space and privacy required by the various functions. The building houses three main activities: a sports center with gym, climbing wall, multipurpose room and outdoor sports fields; a space for youth, practice rooms for music recordings and multipurpose spaces; and a center of educational psychology adaptation, with offices and spaces for psychomotor activities.
For its multifunctional building project, Scape received the “Young Talent Architecture”, awarded in a ceremony at the MAXXI National Museum of XXI Century Arts in Rome. The jury, chaired by architect Mario Cucinella, appreciated “the consistency of composition and maturity in controlling a complex project that is characterized, in addition to the significant social function in a peripheral, for its dialogue with the context”.
Text from the architects:
The building, measuring 3,800m2, designed by the architectural studio SCAPE, is located at the southern end of ZAC (urban development zone) at Porte des Lilas, and has among its main objectives that of transforming the relationship between the city of Paris within the Boulevard Périphérique and the districts on the outside. The building includes:
— Sports Centre: gym, climbing wall, multi-purpose hall and external sports areas
— Youth Space: music hall and multi-purpose rooms
— Centre for Psycho-Pedagogical Learning (CAPP): offices and psychomotor learning rooms
The building is situated in a sector between the districts of Les Lilas and Bagnolet that is undergoing intensive reconstruction; it is adapted both to suit the green spaces of the Fougères area and the organisation for sports and public. This sector is mainly made up of public spaces that border the Périphérique: a large park to the north, Place del Marquis du Vercors in the axis of Avenue della Porte des Lilas, and the large square with the cinema and circus to the south. Following the imminent reorganisation of rue Paul-Meurice and rue du Docteur-Gley, a larger area will be granted to pedestrians and non-motorized traffic, planted with lines of trees and large areas of garden.
The site, in the middle of an area currently going through a transformation, provides the architects with a free space above the slab built over the Périphérique, as well as an area for construction: the project makes the most of what the site has to offer and develops in three main directions.
To take advantage of free space. This is a rare opportunity in such a dense context and allows the architects to integrate their project well into the landSCAPE of ZAC, from the Plaine Saint-Denis area to the Bagnolet area. The project is organised in such a way as not to occupy all the available space with sports grounds (as imagined in the programme), but to keep back a part of the slab to plant a garden and a filter space: creating a break in the visual context of the Périphérique for effect.
To create an esplanade-cum-building that guarantees continuity between the surrounding area and the Centre. Locating the gym below ground, the architects are free to make an easily accessible welcome space at street level and put the sports area on the floor above, on the same level as the slab.
To devise a building with a compact and homogenous image that maintains the autonomy of its functions. From a local point of view, a user can clearly perceive the three elements and their different accesses: the volumes of the Sports Centre, the Psycho- Pedagogical Centre and the Youth Space form a whole that alternates with luminous patios with plenty of plants to animate the façade. From an urban point of view, through their relationship with ZAC and the Périphérique, the three elements are integrated into one entity with a clear, straightforward architecture forming a compact mass where large glass bays, set back with respect to the line of the façade, create the connection between ground and sky.
Three programmes of interaction — and autonomy integrated — in a dynamic system
The building, which looks compact when seen from the outside, houses a dynamic system within: here the architects have designed a rich and varied visual apparatus, which respects the requirements and the particular necessities for the implementation of each activity. With regard to the three structures, the architects have designed a very simple system of signs that will guide the users to the main zones of activity: the directions are shown on large coloured panels, with different colours for each zone. The choice of colour has been made to match the materials used in the floor of the area concerned: resin (for the corridors and common parts), PVC floors (for the gym, offices and multi-purpose halls) and parquet (for the music and dance rooms). The emphasis is on simple materials destined for intense use and which are efficient in terms of comfort and acoustics.
— The Sports Centre
Due to the limits and constrictions imposed on the lot’s area for construction, the architects chose to locate the gym at the edge of the adjacent lot (occupied by a recycling centre, currently under construction), with a blind façade facing north. Thus the Sports Centre occupies the northern part of the lot, with a façade towards the east over rue Paul-Meurice where the entrance is located and a western façade looking towards the Périphérique. The entrance hall is in transparent glass, and stands as a permeable diaphragm between the public space and the sports hall; the flows of people organise themselves from this large luminous space: Closed stairs lead down to the gym in the basement and the changing rooms, which act as a filter between the common parts, the gym and the service rooms; At the back of the ground floor is the access to the climbing wall and the changing rooms; A second, open, staircase leads to the first floor where the multi-purpose rooms and external sports areas can be found. The gym is at the heart of the project: with its large empty volume it creates a link between the sports grounds and the slab garden and the large entrance hall and climbing wall, which open with vast glass walls onto the gym. Its underground location is essential for the general organisation of the project. The climbing wall, organized for use at every level, is double height, reaching 9 metres high. It opens onto rue Paul-Meurice and is visible from the common parts on the first floor and connected to the gym. It receives natural light from street level and by a glass wall placed high up, so as to create the sensation of a lift towards the sky.
Finally, the first floor is the level that introduces physical continuity with the other sports activities: the multi-purpose hall, dedicated both to martial arts and to dance, the sports terrain, located on the roof of the gym, and the sports areas that are located on the slab over the Périphérique. Each of these activity spaces has its dedicated changing rooms and service areas. The offices for management of the Centre are also found on this level: the director’s office, meeting room, staff rooms and the infirmary.
— The Youth Space
The Youth Space is located on the corner of rue Paul-Meurice and rue Léon-Frapié, on the ground floor. Access is gained through a second patio, situated on rue Léon-Frapié. The hall is designed to be a space for shared living, hence it is placed at the centre of the two poles within the lot: the area for music, with three music rooms that are visible from the street, and the activity area with two multi-purpose rooms. The rest of the structure is devoted to management offices and staff areas.
— The Centre for Psycho-Pedagogical Learning
The Centre for psycho-pedagogical learning is designed to welcome children and adolescents and is located on the corner of rue Paul-Meurice and rue Léon-Frapié, on the first floor. An open stairway with zenithal lighting leads to the waiting room, decorated as a convivial space, from which the kids can make their way to the re-education rooms and the two psychomotor learning rooms, situated in the western part of the building and looking onto the green spaces above the Périphérique.
A project that belongs — to a firm logic of sustainable — development
From the very first, this project has been designed to respond to the ever more exacting requirements of the Commune of Paris as regards sustainable development, understood in the broadest sense of the term. The architects have consolidated the “building mass” and freed up space on the slab covering the Périphérique and between the buildings. The guiding principle from a morphological point of view is that of a compact system: the Sports Centre, Youth Space and Centre of Psycho-Pedagogical Learning are all pure volumes. The Sports Centre is located partly underground in order to limit the exposed area and maximize inactivity. To mitigate the density of building, they have created green areas, constituting breathing spaces. Despite the limited space available due to the numerous restrictions on the lot, the various elements have been successfully located so as to exploit the daylight and natural ventilation as much as possible. In the same manner, great care was taken when spacing the buildings one from another so as to guarantee the maximum amount of light and vegetation between them. To satisfy the energy performance required by the City of Paris (consumption of 50kWh/m²), the system has been completed with a series of technical expedients: external insulation, high performance glass, a Power-pipe© water recycling system (which is highly relevant in a building with such uses) and a roof area of approximately 300 m2 devoted of photovoltaic panels.
Client: Ville de Paris, Direction du Patrimoine et de l´Architecture
Project management: Justyna Morawska
Design, greening, costs calculation: LGX Ingénierie Sustainable Development
Consultant: Franck Boutté
Acoustic consulting: ALTIA
Landscape consulting: GSA – Antonio Stignani
Period of construction: 2011-2014
Fotos by Francesco Mattuzzi