What was once a very bland apartment complex on the edge of Paris has been refurbished into a gleaming high-rise that saves a lot of resources and greatly enhances residents' quality of life. Tour Bois-le-Prêtre started out in the late '50s as a modernist housing block, and it underwent a disastrous remodel in the early '90s. Fortunately, Frédéric Druot Architecture came to the rescue with a total remodel of the façade, and they extended the apartments to infuse the living spaces with light while dramatically increasing the amount of floor area and doubling their energy efficiency.
The 17-story building was conceived as a low-cost social housing block – one of many that popped up throughout Europe at the time. A façade renovation 20 years ago eliminated much of the character of the building – and worse – cut off much of the natural light and views. Rather than absorbing the cost of tearing the building down and developing replacement housing, the Paris housing authority gave the go-ahead to save the building with a brilliant scheme.
Frédéric Druot Architecture designed a prefabricated extension to each apartment. The lightweight sun rooms and balconies hang off the original walls and are supported by steel posts. The building’s existing façade was replaced by sliding glass doors. The building gained about 2/3 more square footage at minimal costs. An elevator was also added to the addition and an interior one was removed to add living space. The program of many of the 97 apartments was tweaked to reconfigure the floor plan. The apartments themselves were minimally disturbed by the additions, which meant that residents did not have to move out during construction.
The design uses the multiple layers to control light, sound and energy. The spaces are now much brighter and more comfortable, and each features a three-season room wrapped in polycarbonate sheets that opens to a deck. A thermal curtain behind the glass sliding door reduces heat loss, which the architects estimate helps provide a 50% reduction in heating. The multiple configurations add dramatic views and light to the apartments, utterly transforming their appeal and improving the city’s neighborhood.