BEZONS – Currently, there seems to be no shortage of social housing projects in France. Unquestionably, these have been long overdue. What we are witnessing is not only a quantitative increase in development, but also a qualitative one. Project by project, a new generation of architects is changing the face of social housing. By creating an intimate atmosphere in an urban setting, Gemaile Rechak Architects follows the very same path. Just like Atelier O-S and Antonini Darmon, the young practice has been considerate towards contextual implications and sets the bar rather high for low-income housing. The firm’s examples successfully demonstrate that bringing back the human scale into government-funded housing is the way forward.
To avoid the emblematic one-big-block aesthetic, Gemaile Rechak arranged 16 units in four seperate buildings, each different in height and layout. The taller buildings function as a barrier between living space and a violently busy main road. Further fighting the austerity of the area is the wooden cladding which stretches from horizontal lines on the ground in the courtyard vertically up onto the adjacent building, climbing up the roof and reaching all the way down on the street side again.
The building on the opposite reverses the geometry with divergent cladding, thereby creating a visually framed space for inhabitants. The feeling of connection and belonging is additionally enforced through the sole entrance which all residents share. It leads to a bright and airy path and transfuses from there into many more directions. All ways leading to and from the buildings profit from natural light, giving brightness and perspective to usually forgotten spaces.
Although the units differ from each other in shape and size, all benefit from a south-west orientation and some have terraces or direct garden access. Architect Gemaile Rechak describes his intention as ‘giving people a space where they can really be’, as opposed to just exist. It might not sound like much, but glancing over other developments on the edge of Paris’ periphery, one starts to appreciate the new wave of social housing.