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MCH'19 Workshop Anne Lacaton. Assistant professor: Diego García-Setién. 


Housing and Reuse. Good conditions of life


Magasins Généraux | PostIndustrial Life | ReHab of Pantin Warehouses | Paris


This year’s workshop will continue exploring the potential reuse of obsolete industrial facilities turned into a mixed-use and dwelling structure, in the context of the Master in Collective Housing. We will work with the ‘Magasins Généraux du Pantin’ -also called ‘Batiment des douanes’- a double warehouse complex belonging to Paris Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCIP) located in the northeast of the city, settled on the right bank of the Canal de l´’Ourcq.






The Canal de l’Ourcq is 100 Km long and flows from Mareul sur Ourcq and the Bassin de La Villette. It was opened in 1822, separating the village of Pantin in two parts. Long covered boats –galiots- began to navigate the canal carrying goods and passengers and later special boats called ‘flútes de Ourcq’ took advantage of its fast current and were able to carry up to 50 tons of wood and construction materials on its 28m long and 3 m wide board.


Tonnage taxes were applied in order to cover costs of the canal expansion and widening during 1890s. The railway stations of Pantin and Noisy le Sec bordered the two banks of the Canal. In the turn of the century, The Chamber of Commerce decided to build ‘suitable stores for each type of merchandise’, allowing wagons and boats to move goods in and out of the city without fraud. The water filling of the canal took up to 1929, when it was finally able to welcome the biggest inland navigation boats from Rouan via the Seine ad the canal Saint Denis, becoming a waterway for large barges. The Pantin warehouses were the storage place for cargo coming from the northern towns ad played together with the Grands Moulins de Pantin, a major role in the supply of provisions for the city of Paris. The building was built in 1929, after the enlargement of the canal and the creation of the Pantin Port, whose platform was built out of the dredged fill of the old canal bed. It was operative in 1931 and was used to stock various goods, mainly flour and grain. Grain was carried by boats, once docked in front of the warehouse, a pneumatic machine lifted it from the barge to the distribution tower on the roof of the warehouse, where it was distributed by means of conveyors into containers. Cranes moving along the façade also placed provisions on the balconies.


As it was already usual to do in mill-construction, and practiced in many American warehouses and vertical factories (Ford, Packard, etc), the twin Pantin warehouses were built using a reinforced concrete structure on a 10x7m grid of pillars, which reduce their section and their height as the building grows up its six floors. Floor structures also decrease their load bearing capacity as they grow up (from 2000Kg/m2 on the ground floor to 350K/m2 on the sixth floor) and are supported by 10m span beams separated 1,75m, and stood by portals every 10m. Each floor of both warehouses is surrounded by a 2m wide loading deck, which provides the warehouse with a horizontal and ship-like resemblance. The western building is 35x57m and the eastern warehouse is 35x50m. Both warehouses are separated by a 15m void, and connected by steel bridges on every floor. The façade is filled with light gray bricks and large metal-sashed windows.






The complex was used in different ways during its 90 years life span. After it was abandoned in the 70s, the place stayed empty and squatted for a long time. The complex has been recently renovated according to the ZAC du Port Project for the whole district, which includes other important renovations such as the Grand Moulins to become BNP offices, or the new building for the National Dance Center. The Pantin Magazins host since 2016, office spaces for Publicity Company BETC, the National Contemporary Art Center (CNEAI), and bar-restaurant Dock B. A residential space for 400 houses leisure space and promenades is under development on the south part of the site.


For the MCH19 workshop, we will take the building as it was found before this last reform, in order to find alternative solutions, even if we could later assume some of the current findings. Reuse of such buildings is an opportunity to design and invent new housing typologies, far away from standards, giving more space to each of various qualities and atmospheres. This is also the opportunity to confront with deep and generous spaces, normally considered un-usefull or lacking spatial quality. MCH students will work on the design of potential scenarios related to the implementation of residential and mixed-use program at the Pantin Warehouse Complex. A 3-day workshop will be organized, in order to attain the best results which will be presented in the format of a short video or as a set of images/collages illustrating a project and a narrative (*) Extensive information about the Pantin Warehouses can be found in the attached folders.






The workshop topic will emphasize on the optimal conditions to live in the city, in a public space, in the neighborhood, in a collective space with the close community, and in the individual space. The city should provide exceptional quality of life by offering a large range of facilities, proximities, and pleasures, as well as a large variety of typologies to fit different needs, expectations and ways of life.










(*) designing by fragments





We will design the project by fragments, from images and situations. Images have always to be close, as if they were made from the inside, being within a situation, a space, an atmosphere, and showing how it is used, and always close to the subject, from the smallest to the largest. They will speak about individual space, about program, about life, about movement, about community space, about public space, about the city, about the relationship with the exterior, the sky, the city, the trees… about relationships between people.


These attentively observed and analyzed images will become catalysts for the project, to define some architectural intentions. Used as space generators, these images become an instrument for research, and the project’s driving force.


Through simple operations of collage, accumulation, sampling, superposition, transformative addition, contamination, every image gains a new dimension and their accumulation generates sequences of spaces, atmospheres, journeys, and even stories, which can lay down the basis of the project.


Encouraging the construction of spaces from existing heterogeneous situations, brings the practice of architecture toward filmic composition and thus stimulates an altogether different manner of addressing the project that comes close to that of the filmmaker. By means of the sequence of events, the filmmaker constructs spaces around the actor(s) and by means of the movement of the actor(s). Thus the filmmaker makes the details first — the (cinematic) "plans" — which, once assembled, constitute the film, as opposed to the architect, who makes the whole first and then deduces the details from it.


This active modus operandi places the importance on fragmentary thinking.




During the workshop, students are invited to address the following guidelines:


Work on urban housing conditions offering similar qualities of living conditions of an individual house with a garden in a suburb: private access, relationship to outdoor spaces, undefined spaces, or relation between public-private. Houses should be simple, generous (radically different to the standard), affordable, intelligently built, pleasant, flexible, open to appropriation, plausible (possible for everybody), and the housing shall include a variety of typologies. Design innovative housing "typologies", open to flexibility, to self intervention, adaptable to a wide range of inhabitants. Create a mixed use neighbourhood, providing different functions, private and public, different levels of facilities and public use. ‘Open building’ theory and ‘support & infill’ concepts will surely help achieve them and constitute interesting solutions to explore. Support or infrastructure: involves the primary spatial organization of the structure, accesses, circulation, services. Represents what is more durable in a housing building and, and less open to change. Infill: include all that is contingent and subject to more frequent transformation: partitions, fittings, interior finishes, individual mechanical equipment…



Presentation: April 4th

Workshop: April 23-24-25th

Final Crit: May 9th at ETH Zurich


Instructions for April 23rd:

Students will work in groups of 3 or exceptionally in groups of 4. Students will prepare a Manifesto for inhabiting the Magasins Généraux a Pantin. This will be presented as the workshop kick-off, including a short text (150-250 words), and a set of images, collages, diagrams… to illustrate first intentions.









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