The Maison de la Francophonie sets out to offer its residents a spatial framework that makes comfort and beauty an essential part of their everyday experience. A challenge it rose to from day one thanks to its location within the wider urban context for Baumschlager Eberle Architekten (lead architect) and Sam Architectes (associated architects). Marking the transition from Paris’s noisy Boulevard Périphérique to the quieter park-like atmosphere of the Rue Hyacinthe Vincent, the site was chosen to offer its students maximum peace and quiet. The use of concrete with its insulating properties as the primary building material further mitigates acoustic inputs.
Studio Name: Baumschlager Eberle Architekten
Design team: Baumschlager Eberle Architekten (Paris office
Year: 2020 (=completion)
Location : 21-24 rue du Professeur Hyazinthe Vincent, Paris, France
Photographer Credit: Cyrille Weiner and Luc Boegly
Inside, the building provides 7,670m² of usable space and an interesting range of potential uses. Alongside the 300 student rooms, each with its own kitchenette and bathroom, the ground floor is largely given over to communal living space and houses a multi-functional meeting/events room, a lounge and a communal kitchen as well as the manager’s office. Community and the communal are high on the agenda at the Maison de la Francophonie, where the architects have imagined two open-plan areas for social interaction on each of the eight floors, creating living space with views of the surrounding area. The individual rooms are also designed to enable students to entertain on a small scale and to adapt to their daily routines.
The exterior space is equally attractive. 75% of it is landscaped, while two terraces provide pleasant outdoor seating areas.
The building’s high value-in-use is thus assured by an architecture that has the kind of beauty appreciated by all, whether consciously or unconsciously. The aesthetic concept is based on the elementary tools of the architect: geometry, light and materiality.
“This enabled us to develop a strong sculptural identity that rejects any notion of modishness. Suffused with subtle detail, the architecture echoes the raison d’être of the Maison de la Francophonie itself and the Cité Internationale Universitaire in which it stands, helping shape a space for discussion and debate, for understanding among nations. “ explains architect Anne Speicher, Managing Partner at Baumschlager Eberle Architekten Paris, in reference to the design intent behind the project.
Characterised by striking chamfered concrete elements and profiled cornices, the façades are the architectural vocabulary that expresses movement into the structure. This movement follows a basic horizontal and vertical rhythm dictated by the concrete elements, the cornices and the recesses on either side of the building. Seen as a whole, the architectural composition of the building is subtle and stylish, a quality that extends to the material characteristics of its timber frame.
Elementary architecture necessarily involves the concept of sustainability for the future. Compact and built to last, the structure alone delivers a reduction in energy consumption, requiring 25% less heating energy than a traditional RT2012 building. Added to this energy efficiency is the fact that La Maison de la Francophonie generates all of its hot water using heat pumps that extract the necessary calories from service water. Its NF Habitat HQE and Effinergie+ certificates underline the effectiveness of the systems in place.
But longevity – architecture’s contribution to global sustainability – is not just a question of the material and the physical; it is also very much a matter of socio-cultural acceptance.
“Our aim was to create a building the students would be able to identify with, a feeling of belonging that would be reinforced by a certain level of comfort in their everyday lives and the beauty of the architecture.” explains Anne Speicher, spelling out Baumschlager Eberle Architekten’s fundamental design approach.