Law Faculty Université-Paris I

Renovation of the Lourcine barracks Paris / France / 2019

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"Building a city on a city" has long been the standard approach to urban renewal. Our modernity


has largely ignored and further complicated this practice that is now coming back all the more strongly due to the economic realities of construction being challenged by the severity of environmental issues.


Rehabilitating and preserving existing buildings, even over and above considerations of heritage, is becoming a viable means of saving energy and  sobriety, a source of reusable materials and a great opportunity to discover new uses resulting from conversion. Entering a building with its past life and its history, its previous uses, means imagining new stories to tell based on older tales and the richness of their promise.


That is why we like to use the term "Metamorphosis" rather than rehabilitation: for us, it means building on the old to create something new and richer still than what might have been preserved.


The project to transform the Lourcine barracks in the 13th Arrondissement of Paris is ambitious and innovative, due to both its scale and above all to the new relationship it creates with the existing buildings. In the heart of a very built-up and innervated district where the barracks has hitherto formed a distinct area, opening up the site to its immediate environment helps to tell those new stories. This evolution is based on an approach to the redevelopment of Parisian heritage, which in this case is envisaged not so much as a museum exhibit frozen in time, but as a means of regenerating the city, capable of breathing new life into the district.


A military site at the heart of urban planning in Paris in the twentieth century


While this had been a military site since well before the French revolution, it has been in its current configuration since the end of the nineteenth century. The topography of the land in the Lourcine barracks presents a flat area between the parade ground and Boulevard de Port Royal and a slight slope towards Rue de la Glacière, but on the eastern side Rue Broca (an ancient medieval lane) is almost five metres lower. 


This allows for natural light to enter the basement floors of building 2 through large windows with a major foundation. This topography bears witness to the major earthworks and development undertaken in the nineteenth century. 


In the centre, a large, rectangular parade ground planted with trees and surrounded on both sides by substantial barracks (buildings 1 and 2), each consisting of a central portion with wings at either end. These two original buildings were doubtless built in two phases using dressed stones, rubble and brick with a wooden frame and a slate roof according to a classical architectural model. 


The site evolved in the second half of the twentieth century with the demolition of buildings facing Boulevard de Port Royal and Rue Saint Hippolyte and the construction of two imposing buildings maintaining the composition of the north / south axis. On the Saint Hippolyte side, a two-floor car park was created under the building up to the level of the slope and protruding into the parade ground.


A university teaching and research programme on a military site 


The site of the Lourcine barracks has evolved considerably, becoming a set of office buildings and accommodation, but keeping its original form around the old parade ground and its major north / south axis. The two military buildings have been preserved


both in terms of their volume and a large part of their internal layout. 


The redevelopment plans include the installation of a part of the Law Faculty of the Université Paris 1 (teaching and research facilities, a library and central copying room) in buildings 1 and 2, and in part of the basements under building 3.  


Buildings 3 (a part of the basement and the superstructure) and 4 are not included in the scope of the current project: building 3 houses accommodation managed by the French Ministry of Defence and building 4 houses boarders taking preparatory classes at the Lycée Jean Zay. 


The challenge for the project is to preserve a precious heritage that bears witness to the urban history of this district while altering it as little as possible.  The idea is to change the organisation of the barracks buildings to perfectly suit their new intended functions.


Two major choices... 


Showcase this precious heritage by minor interventions on buildings 1 and 2: 


the quality of the construction and their capacity already make them a wonderful place to house the research and teaching programme. Structural adaptations for insulation, access and safety are all possible and can even be further reduced if the project is carefully adapted to the existing spaces (conservation of the staircases, for example).


Work on these buildings is carefully targeted and limited to the interior; the envelope remains almost untouched apart from altering the size of the doors leading to the outside to comply with modern standards but within the existing clearance. The works have been planned to ensure that the rough finishing leaves the existing structure and the nobility of the original materials visible.


The internal façades are revealed by generous walkways, while the height is emphasised by shafts that show off the existing volumes.


Re-establishing the strategic function of the central square:  


the co-existence of different uses, namely the proximity between the future premises of Paris 1, the military accommodation and the rooms for students taking preparatory classes make the square something of a challenge: 


...a place where flows both converge and separate, it must make it possible to preserve the overall sense of the site while avoiding any undesirable confrontations between users.


The square must not therefore be "built", but rather restored: that is why the placement of the reception area represents a particularly sensitive feature of the project.


While giving the site its overall sense and cohesiveness, the location of the reception area calls out, offers guidance and plays the part of an attractive, functional and pleasant space. This reorganisation makes it possible to add value to the centre in terms of both landscaping and functionality.


Envisaged as an interior geography, it links together different topographic levels through folds in the ground or gentle dips with minimum interference. 


Furthermore, the symmetrical layout of the whole enables a visual link to be envisaged that runs right through the plot revealing the depth of the whole area from Rue Saint Hippolyte to Boulevard de Port Royal. 


...lead to a project making a connection via the garden level that reveals the topography of the site...

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    "Building a city on a city" has long been the standard approach to urban renewal. Our modernity has largely ignored and further complicated this practice that is now coming back all the more strongly due to the economic realities of construction being challenged by the severity of environmental issues. Rehabilitating and preserving existing buildings, even over and above considerations of heritage, is becoming a viable means of saving energy and  sobriety, a source of reusable materials...

    Project details
    • Year 2019
    • Work finished in 2019
    • Status Completed works
    • Type Colleges & Universities
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