During the National Architecture Days, the public will have the opportunity to discover projects labelled as part of the call for expressions of interest «Committed to the quality of tomorrow’s housing».

Launched by the Ministries of Culture and Housing in October 2021, the call for expressions of interest “Committed to the quality of tomorrow’s housing” The aim is to carry out innovative housing projects.
Nearly 97 winners have been announced, in mainland France and overseas, for projects involving both new construction and rehabilitation. Designed as a trio with an architect, a community and a project manager, they aim to question the current ways of living and to experiment and innovate in the habitat of tomorrow. « This allows for new processes for quality, virtuous and affordable housing ” sums up Corinne Langlois.

« The question of housing remains fundamental today within the architectural discipline, continues Antoine Viger-Kohler, architect at the TVK agency and member of the selection committee. The intensification of climatic hazards but also the energy pressure forces us to produce new models. The notion of habitability must be at the centre of our reflections on the urban, architectural scale but also in the design of public spaces. The aim is to integrate these projects in the long term of the transformation of the city. »

In metropolitan Bordeaux, the depolluted earth becomes construction material

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Of the nearly 100 projects that have been approved, some 20 will go through incubation for two to three years. This is the case for the agency. Keno Architect, located both in the Bordeaux metropolis and in Normandy and which has already taken up this theme of architecture to live in. « We’ve lost sight of the idea that the architect can bring people together, give them more social connection », believes Mikhalis Montarnier, one of the three founders of the agency with his brother Theodosius and Paul de Cathelineau.

The trio embarked on a vast experiment in the city of Lormont, on the right bank of the Garonne and north of Bordeaux. The goal is to clean up the soil to transform the land into a sustainable resource and building material. “ Housing is currently designed as a source of finance but must once again become a basic necessity. Our thinking started from the ground and from a land today out of price. If we buy it expensive, then there will be less money to build the houses, plead Theodosius Montarnier. So we looked at soils that are available but have some â pathologies, such as pollution or a steep slope, and therefore significant reversion costs. » This less expensive and less subject to the land pressure of the metropolis nevertheless presents significant advantages since it is for example close to transport and with a breathtaking view of Bordeaux.

The three young architects carried out a strategy with the city of Lormont, broke away from a fragmentary vision and identified three areas not contiguous but with similar constraints. The first is being rehabilitated, resulting in the excavation of a large amount of soil. “ These reclaimed lands, through various technologies, now find a second life only in our public spaces in the form of green spaces. Yet they represent an exploitable deposit for building construction. We propose to consider them as a material of the future to build the structures of the buildings through suitable construction techniques, pursues Theodosis Montarnier. The aim of this local recycling scheme is to develop a local economy committed to high value-added materials. »

These collaborative soils thus support a collective environmental approach.  The earth excavated from the first piece of land (on the brink of saturation in terms of the amount of land) will be transported to a second piece, on which an urban project is initiated over a long time. Before the renewal of the wasteland, this waiting time will be used to make it an ephemeral transitory park for this land, intended for the inhabitants and focused on the pedagogy and the awareness of the value of the soil.

The raw material then enters a stage of phytoremediation, that is to say of depollution by the plants. It is this stage, currently in the experimental stage, that is being incubated and supported financially and technically through the MAI. The trio is currently working with the Nobatek office to develop a prototyping and methodology that can be applied on a large scale. “ It’s hard to structure a stream at the national level so the idea is to take a bigger step, to be able to fund these studies in order to create this framework of possibilities ” says Montarnier.

Once this method is developed and proven, everything will happen on the third site, with the construction of an experimental building of 31 dwellings with the social landlord Domofrance. It will be connected to the district heating of Lormont and included in a larger urban project with shops and services to open up this district, classified Priority District of the city.

In Rosny-sous-Bois, offices transformed into housing

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The habitat of tomorrow requires in particular the transformation of the existing and the reversibility of the constructions, that is to say the ability of the buildings to change of use according to the needs. In Seine-Saint-Denis, in Rosny-sous-Bois, Patrick Rubin worked on the transformation of the former premises of the Cnir (National Traffic Information Centre), personified by the famous «Smart Bison». This project will also be incubated under the MAI.

In 2024, this old office building built in the 80s will give way to a residence for migrant workers. The project will triple the total area from 2,200 to 6,200 m². “ It is always a challenge to make a building designed for one function resonate for another but it is enough to find the quality of the construction and the technical possibility to modulate the spaces » summarises Patrick Rubin, architect and co-founder of the Canal agency, specialized for more than ten years in the transformation of buildings and reversibility.

Regarding the transformation, to gain surface with this building with rounded curves, the agency has planned to extend to the rear and to raise the existing. For Patrick Rubin, a watchword guided this reflection: do not distort the original and act as if this extension had always existed. « The second-rank architect does a job as a smuggler but that does not mean that he disappears: he brings new techniques. » To meet current environmental requirements and build as clean a site as possible, the architect designed a wooden structure that will be built off site for more efficiency. « This allows to pollute less and to be faster because at the same time we can do the big work and the modules ” continues Patrick Rubin.

Inside, the agency thought of the dwellings as self-sustaining elements connected to the openings. For the former, the insulation was made by the interior to, again, not distort the facade. The agency also tried to put itself in the shoes of future users of the premises and proposed larger housing and each equipped with its own bathroom and kitchen. This puzzle can, over time, be undone and then redone with other configurations in the future if the function of the site were to change.

This reversibility is the cornerstone of tomorrow’s urban planning for Patrick Rubin. « If we take the time to observe the buildings, we will find them with qualities to preserve and transfer them. » Repair rather than destroy and build in order to avoid having to demolish: the agency has thus imagined the first reversible building in Bordeaux, capable of being transformed, as needed, into housing or offices. Thus, the building is built according to a principle of posts and slabs, without exposed beams, with a wooden envelope and stairs located outside for evacuation operations in order to leave room for large free and modular trays. It will be at least thirteen meters deep to make through houses and 2m70 in height, twenty centimeters more than a conventional dwelling but sixty less than an office. « To design buildings according to this principle is to have a reflection on our acquired, our rooted habits, stresses Patrick Rubin. But that’s the only way you won’t have to demolish in the future. »

Coaching for MAI recipients

The 97 projects labeled «Committed to the quality of tomorrow’s housing» will benefit from the valorization of their methods through various media and events. Twenty of them are part of an incubator and will benefit from even more specific support to make their approach successful with the help of complementary expertise, the support of lawyers to secure the proper development of their operations and financial support in studies and engineering by the Caisse des dépôts. An exhibition, a catalogue and audiovisual documentaries highlighting the 97 winning projects will be unveiled in 2023.