EN - La Maison des Etudiants is a student residence built in the 1930s. It is an eight-storey building, sober in style and with a plain facade, part of the skyline of the Grands Boulevard, a distinctive urban feature of the city of Grenoble. Originally, the building had fairly spacious rooms but only basic facilities, with communal showers and bathrooms. On the ground floor, at mezzanine level above the pavement, was the university cafeteria. Completely cut off from the street by its elevated position and its opaque pedestal structure, its rear extended into the kitchens, built on a single floor.
The remit here was to regenerate the structure by remodelling the existing building and constructing Cité Galilée, a residence for young foreign research students. The challenge was to find a solution for the new volume, given that the space available was extremely tight, while also doing as much as possible to protect the views from the rooms in the existing building. The design of the extension was determined by this need for the two parts, old and new, to coexist without adversely affecting each other.
The old kitchens were demolished to create a garden. Modern in its style and distinctive in colour, Cité Galilée has the appearance of a new growth grafted onto the existing structure. It constitutes a single volume, a diagonal mass sculpted to protect the views and to comply with planning requirements. It is detached from the ground, thereby releasing transparent communal spaces on the ground floor and a wide bicycle shelter porch. The first two floors consist of bedrooms arranged in three directions, and form a platform which turns vertically and narrows from the third floor to form a communal terrace. From here on up, the bedrooms are distributed on either side of a glass-enclosed gangway. The Eastern facade is folded to provide views over the Bastille, Grenoble’s iconic mountain, from every room, and each room extends into a balcony.
The new building’s architectural style is founded both on differentiation – in order to avoid any confusion between the 1930s building and the contemporary extension – and respect for the pre-existing design. Both parts are single coloured, the original white, the extension orange. This paradoxical assembly generates a new entity, a composition in which each of the elements reinforces the other’s identity.
From the boulevard, Cité Galilée is invisible and the extension very discreet. The major transformation in the lower part: the old mezzanine-level restaurant slab has gone, a new surface has been created at boulevard level, and this space has become a reception hall. The opaque sections have been replaced by a fully glazed facade on either side of the great hall, creating total transparency between street and garden.
Inside, the platforms have been cleared to make way for a new layout for the bedrooms, which have become fully equipped studios. They are arranged on the same principles in Cité Galilée and in the MDE, with a surface area of 18 m² in the Cité and different shapes and sizes on the different floors of the MDE. Each has a bathroom, a separate WC, a kitchen, a built-in bed, a desk and storage space. Their ergonomics have been tailored by the architects down to the smallest details, with the aim of making maximum possible use of the available space within a tight budget. Rooms are subdivided into two areas: a sleeping and studying area to the front, and a lower section consisting of the entrance, kitchen, bathroom and WC. The latter is styled like a large piece of furniture, lined with multiply birchwood panels. This same material is also used for the beds, the desks and the shelving.