A long gone prestigious military past
The Pépinière barracks were built at the end of the eighteenth century for the French Guards, the elite regiment responsible for the protection of the King of France. Opening onto the Place Saint-Augustin, its U-shaped layout around a large courtyard facilitated military inspections. It was extensively remodeled during the Second Empire to accommodate up to 1500 men, then partially demolished and rebuilt in 1925 when the Cercle National des Armées (the National Officers Club) was constructed on the location of the barracks’ monumental entrance.
In the post-war years, in order to meet the growing needs of the French army, the rear wing was demolished and replaced by a building that combined offices and barracks.
This very narrow, high-rise building, situated in an oversized courtyard, was resolutely functional and of little architectural interest. In contrast, the building flanking the street remained very Parisian, classical and even military in its precision and austerity. In 2015, the French government parted with the property and PCA-STREAM began to develop its new project.
Rebuilding Paris within itself
PCA-STREAM embodies transformative architecture, a “metabolic” vision of the city, the heritage of which is in constant evolution. PCA-STREAM’s approach is based on an in-depth building diagnosis, the identification of historically relevant elements (in this case, the urban alignment and the classical arrangement of the street-facing façade). The whole is then re-imagined to adapt it to new contemporary functions. Launched in 2015, the project borrows the concept of reconstructive surgery on a large injured body: despite the amputation of its largest pavilion on Place Saint-Augustin, the classical wing flanking the street has been carefully restored to revive the barracks’ former grandeur.
A dialogue between the interior and the exterior
From the outside, the building thus retains its classical Parisian elegance… but once the visitor passes through this heritage building the surprise, as is known to happen in so many Parisian courtyards, is total. The sheer scale of the new building’s glass surfaces is striking. They form a shining, contemporary mirror opposite the eighteenth-century wing. The huge supporting frames take inspiration from the steel T beams typically used in the glass façades of Parisian courtyards. Now 12 meters wide – the minimum for modern service sector use –, the building is broader than before.
Creating a hub
In the center of the courtyard, a brand new pavilion has been added: the “NoPa”. The pavilion’s volumetric aspects pay homage to its vanished predecessor. It connects the historic and modern buildings via a spectacular double-height hallway, while also providing harmony to the layout. Two courtyards of better proportions are thus created: one mineral and intended as a service entrance – emergency services, deliveries – the other vegetal and intended for the occupants, organized around an exquisite garden.
Rebuilding horizontality to foster exchange and collaboration
The tall, narrow barracks embodied the vertical hierarchy of the military. PCA-STREAM has turned this around to promote new, horizontal ways of working and managing. Circulation systems have been designed to allow fluid flow along the length of the building. The floors at the back of the courtyard have been widened to 12 metres. The lift cores are grouped together in one place so that members of staff encounter every day.
The proportion of common areas has been greatly increased, with the creation of spaces designed for informal encounters: kitchens and convivial spaces on each floor; a contemporary restaurant with large tables, which during the day transforms into an informal space for work and collaboration; a vast library with alcoves, where both groups and individuals can come together within the same place. And a central building, the “NoPa”, designed as a hub for resources, discussion and representation. A terrace crowns the pavilion, providing a venue for events.
A union between transparency and confidentiality
Made entirely of glass surrounding the courtyards, the structure allows its occupants to see one another, even from the opposite sides of the building. The whole space has been conceived to promote encounters, interactions, and knowledge sharing. This represents a genuine paradigm shift for the legal profession, which is based on discretion and confidentiality.
The new staff offices remain individual (or are shared by two or three people), but the partitions are transparent, and some even have writable walls. The acoustics have been designed to guarantee that conversations are not overheard. Most of the offices benefit from a dual internal access point, outdoor balconies, and terraces.
Maximizing physical well-being
Thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows of the façade, each office benefits from optimal natural light.
There is also an excellent provision of outdoor spaces. Besides the central garden, the offices offer access to the balconies on every floor. The quiet of the courtyards, the planted terraces or two rooftops provide spectacular panoramic views of Montmartre, the Parisian rooftops and Saint-Augustin church. Circulation is given prominence with staircases on the façades, transforming them into true living spaces: they provide access to the terraces, foster encounters and encourage physical exercise. A multitude of informal and inspiring spaces, allowing people to work flexibly and in harmony with the seasons.
Particular attention has been paid to design and furniture, particularly in the shared spaces, to achieve a very high level of comfort for both staff and clients. The workspaces’ interior design has been entrusted to Archimage.
Besides the double-height lounge, the restaurant, the working café and the library, which together constitute a real living space, an onsite concierge service and 24-hour gym are provided.
Embodying the French arts of living
Resulting from the close collaboration between Gide and PCA-STREAM, the interior architecture is founded upon the major values embodied by the law firm: excellence, innovation and the French art of living.
The project, therefore, uses materials that are noble without being ostentatious: Charmot, blue Buxy limestone, and marble, with antique brass for the metalwork. Like a red thread, the sycomore bracket provides the project with rhythm.
The common areas reuse the aesthetic codes of the home and the hospitality industry, with the addition of elegant curtains and the tailor-made choices of decorative objects and hanging lights. The new central “NoPa” pavilion opens onto a double-height hallway with a cosy design. The restaurant, the working café and the library constitute welcoming coworking spaces. On every floor, the terraces and contemporary lounges form convivial islands between offices.
An essential component of the project for Gide, the spaces dedicated to welcoming clients are located in the historic and most noble wing, flanking the street. The wing includes approximately twenty meeting rooms, elegant, comfortable and equipped with the latest technology, as well as small salons, open but discreet, mingling with digital artwork.
Reconnecting the city to nature
STREAM has dedicated five years of research, two publications and dozens of conferences to the subject: office buildings –and the city as a whole– must be regarded as metabolic organisms: alive, co-designed, evolving, and connected to their ecosystems.
Green spaces as a component of architectural design
The modern building design is driven by the desire for a new relationship with nature in urban areas, a relationship that is both simpler and more active. The creation of green spaces is no longer decorative. It now includes the garden, the roofs, and the terraces, creating porosity with the neighboring Augustins park. It provides comfort, biodiversity, and heat insulation.
Urban agriculture for onsite consumption
Freed of technical structures, the rooftop becomes productive. Various aromatic plants grow there, requiring little watering and maintenance. They are cared for and harvested by Topager, gardener-agronomists specialized in urban agriculture. Though the amount of food produced, intended for onsite consumption, remains modest, it significantly improves urban biodiversity and optimizes rainwater management.
A lively courtyard
The central courtyard is luxuriously planted, like an invitation to come and sit down to have lunch, to talk and to work. The landscape project creates the impression that nature is erupting from the floor through the wooden platform. It was created by La Superstructure, which was selected in collaboration with the Chaumont Garden Festival. This approach is inherent to the culture of the studio, which regularly invites other creators, artists, and designers to take part in their projects.
Respect for the environment
The entire project uses the available technology to offer exceptional environmental performance, approved by numerous certification labels while contributing to overall comfort levels. This involves the careful choice of A+ materials (the top class of low-VOC materials), the collection of rainwater for sanitary facilities and water systems, the use of certified wood from sustainably managed forests, as well as the installation of high-performance equipment to reduce the building’s energy consumption.
Picturing the construction work
|Program||Restoration and extension of former military barracks into an office complex|
|Location||15 rue de Laborde, 75008 Paris|
|Surface area||18 879m²|
|Cost||47 M€ HT|
|Status||Delivered in 2018|
|Certifications||BREEAM Very Good; HQE Renovation Excellent; HQE New Excellent; High Energy Performance Certification|
|Team||Assistant to the Contracting Authority: ARC
Contract Supervisor: Artelia
Environment: Green Affair
Technical Inspection: Qualiconsult
Health and Safety: LM3C
Fire Safety: CSD Faces
Landscaping: Topager, La Superstructure
External Lighting: LUMIERE STUDIO
Office Design: ARCHIMAGE
General Contractor: Eiffage
Air Conditioning: LEFORT
Landscaping: Topager, Les Jardins de l’Orangerie