Rue des Suisses

Rue des Suisses, Paris, France, Herzog & De Meuron
Project year: 2000
Address: 17 Rue des Suisses, PARIS, France
Latitude/Longitude: 48.830090,2.313429

Herzog & De Meuron team made this their first project in Paris on an unusual site in the 14th Arrondisement not far from Gare Montparnesse. The Paris public housing agency Régie Immobilière de la Paris (RVIP) sponsored a 1966 competition resulting to this project which is built on three interconnected parcels. These parcels include infill sites on two sides of a long perimeter block that face a long narrow plot on the interior of the block. The infill buildings are built to the Neighborhood height of 7 floors have given the construction of the infill buildings, while the interior slab is only 3 floors in height. Beneath the infill buildings, there is the entrance to the interior of the block. The long narrow block is designed as a free-standing element in a long narrow garden and is protected by curving rolling wooden blinds in addition to the 4 story difference in building height. These blinds are in sharp contrast to the folding metal blinds that cover the facades of the street buildings. Beneath the infill block on Rue des Suisses, there is a basement parking for about 50 cars that extends into the courtyard beneath the interior building. The three buildings contain about 60 flats.

The street buildings
The street buildings are both point-access types. The larger block with a view on Rue des Suisses has several apartments per floor that face either the street or garden. There is only one flat per floor with frontage on both the street and the garden at the narrow block on Rue Jonquoy. The long narrow building is also a point access type that has several entrances that serve three floors of larger flats. The living spaces and bedrooms organize the ground floor apartments facing a narrow porch along the public walkway through the garden and a narrow one story high zone. This zone contains the baths and kitchens that attach to the back side of the long block, managing to form small interior courtyards. Along the rear side of the flats on the two upper floors, there are baths, kitchens and circulation organized. The continuous balconies that face southwest is where the living spaces open. Opposite the two main entrances to the long block and into the garden, two story high gable-roofed small houses are placed. Several court areas in the garden are also formed by these tiny cottages which help maintain a residential scale to the arrangement on the interior of the block. An overgrown, unkempt ambience to the landscape areas is able to be created by vines that grow on a system of metal wires fastened to the blank walls of the garden buildings. A porch or veranda along the walkway through the garden area is suggested by the garden block that sets up slightly from the ground on an articulated base. The porch areas are completely covered by the roll-down blinds. Some separation from the garden walkway is given through the slightly raised setback condition, while there is an obvious loss of privacy along the ground floor apartments. An undulating, slightly overhanging quality that further softens the garden spaces is formed by the upper balconies cantilever.

The 7 story block
The 7 story, point-access block facing Rue des Suisses has undulating facades facing both the street and the interior garden. An easy transition between existing buildings to either side is made by the curved facade, which is seen at the end of a long narrow street and also emphasizes the system of metal shutters covering windows between floor slabs and creating a continuous screened surface. The latest version of similar shuttering systems is this system of folding grilles used on both street and garden facades. They have become a leitmotif of Herzog & De Meuron designs. A continuous grille between the narrow horizontal bands of the edge of the floor slabs is formed when they are closed that is the same color as the shutters. Perforated, corrugated aluminum panels make the full-height, hinged shutters that are supported by steel rods connecting between floor slabs. Vertical support rods with stainless steel hinges secures these panels. The panels have 412mm width and 28mm thickness and are finished in a durable dark gray, polyester powder coating. The plane of shutters is separated from the floor to ceiling glass wall of the apartment interiors with a narrow balcony and steel balustrade. Groups of 6 panels that extend forward of the surface of the façade are formed by the shutters in the fully open position creating discontinuous vertical bands. The bands give a highly structural albeit chaotic appearance to the façade giving the impression of several compressed layers of materials. The materials containn shutter, balustrade, the space of the balcony and the dark aluminum glass wall of the dwellings. The shutter system continuous from the sidewalk to the 6th floor. The top floor sets back from the plane of the façade and has roll-down metal blinds of the same color that reinforce the reading of a distinct attic condition.