‘Growing’ a new condition out of an old one:
The site of this project is in a northern suburb of Paris, where Electricité de France (EDF), the country’s major energy provider, used to have a vast storage and repair area for a nearby, highly polluting, coal-fired power station. Constructed in the 1930s, it was decommissioned in the ‘60s, with EDF using part of the site to build their headquarters.
Structural engineering (timber structure): Eckersley O’Callaghan
Environmental innovation: EDF research team
Urban farming experts (vertical greenhouses): Les Fermes de Gally
The development of this project has brought together a total of 38 partners.
The other part remained derelict until 2019, when the building was made available for the C40 Reinventing Cities competition. When completed, our winning project will be located next to a new station of the Grand Paris Express* and to the Olympic and Paralympic Village 2024.
The project was based on achieving synergy between existing and new architecture – a synergy imagined as plugging into the old to give it a new lease of life. The intention was to preserve an “environmentally challenged” 20th–century building and adapt it to new uses while achieving zero-carbon performance.
This was made possible through the Energy Plug system developed by our team.
The Energy Plug is an adaptable prototype that can be clipped onto any ex-industrial building. Based on a prefabricated modular timber structure, its design defines interior comfort through allowing natural lighting and ventilation, limiting heat loss and controlling solar gain. A vertical greenhouse integrated in the south facade not only produces food, but also supports a pleasant indoor climate almost all year round and with no additional air conditioning. The building is protected from solar gain by the world’s first “solar canopy” that has a 4-fold utility: electricity and heat production; rainwater recovery and thermal protection.
Functionally, the project will act as a showcase of clean energy solutions and stimulate ecological innovation by hosting scientific workshops and clean energy start-ups, as well as facilitating educational programs for local schools. A restaurant backed by a social reintegration initiative will provide a welcoming meeting place.
*The soil excavated during the construction of the Grand Paris Express will be used as insulation material for our building.
Transforming a cathedral into a hive:
Designed in the 1930s, the original building embodied that epoch’s idea of “endless future”. The domineering, heroic style typical of the industrial buildings of the time made it appear as a “cathedral for energy” – which is completely out of touch with our contemporary idea of energy production and the relationship between humans and their environment.
However, instead of destroying this “industrial cathedral”, we chose to build on it and adapt it to a more complex, sustainable, inclusive, diverse, environmentally-friendly mindset.
Our work has never been about destroying, but always about adapting. Rather than wiping off our history and the mistakes that were made, we can learn from these mistakes. Like in natural evolution, growth happens through a constant, ongoing process of adaptation and improvement.
Jakob + MacFarlane is an architectural, urban planning and design practice founded in 1998 in Paris, France, and led by two partners, Dominique Jakob and Brendan MacFarlane. Their work is centred on the development of innovative and socially committed architecture tailored to meet the environmental and other challenges of the 21st century. The international, multidisciplinary team is supported by a global network of technical expertise, aimed at conceiving and implementing specific solutions to the challenges that each project presents. At the forefront of digital technology for more than 20 years, the practice is renowned for the designs that become real urban markers recognised for their cultural and societal value and known for their unique architectural presence.