58, rue de Mouzaia, Paris 19th: at this address, a representative work of brutalism was delivered in 1974, co-signed by Claude Parent and André Remondet. However, after 45 years of existence, the building had lost its visual strength: blackened surfaces, erosion, bared irons... In charge of transforming this office building into a housing complex, Canal architecture workshop (Patrick Rubin) seized this opportunity to restore and reveal a dense and strong architecture, while giving it the amenity that suited its new function. This case study is an example of reversibility, a notion that Canal also defends for today's architecture.
The definition of the program, with a residence for students and young workers, including habitats from 18m² to 21m² and shared housing that fit more easily into a structural framework of offices, has been adapted to the architectural and heritage constraints of the site. Great care has been taken by the project management team and by the company, both in the study phase and the work phase – particularly to restore in situ the prefabricated concrete facades of the original building. The concern of heritage preservation has been extended to the recent history of the site, with the integration of a complementary program of 14 artist-studio apartments echoing to the occupation of the place by a squat of artists, from 2010 to 2013.
The constructive rationality of Claude Parent and André Remondet favors, 45 years later, an agile transformation of the office floors into a micro-housing system. Intended in the first place to be an administrative space before being temporarily occupied by a collective of artists, this building is a demonstration of economy of means. The intervention turned out to be a process closer to repair rather than rehabilitation: no major modifications in the structural framework were made, the prefabricated modules of the load-bearing facades were preserved, the double flight staircase was reused, and the structure optimized. Only the acoustic isolation required between the floors represented a significant effort, as it needed to fit the standards applied to contemporary constructions.
In the first basement of the building, there is an independent volume with an area of 1 000 m² intended for a coworking space of 200 users. To this day, three basement levels of the old car park (R-2 to R-4), served by a remarkable double helix ramp, remain free. The unaffected levels represent nearly 6 000 m² of floors that can be linked to coworking spaces or freed up as an independent equipment for the neighborhood.
This project is a great example of preserving the architectural quality of a site as well as its heritage since the main building constitutes a remarkable example of brutalist architecture. Indeed, it has just been listed as a 20th Architecture Contemporaine Remarquable and benefits from a protection by the City of Paris (PVP), notably for its facade, "which intends to express the inner truth of the construction in accordance with the functionalist credo".