completed in 1982, ‘les espaces d’abraxas’ remains the landmark building of marne-la vallée — a new town built near paris in the 1960s. conceived as an ‘urban monument’, architect ricardo bofill insisted that the housing development needed to have a ‘monumental and symbolic character’ to ensure that it formed a strong point of reference. since completion, the project, and its postmodern architecture, has been featured in numerous films including the ‘hunger games’ trilogy.
all images by gregori civera, courtesy of ricardo bofill taller de arquitectura
built by ricardo bofill taller de arquitectura (RBTA), the scheme consists of three key elements: ‘le palacio’, ‘le théâtre’, and ‘l’arc’. the largest structure, ‘le palacio’, is a 18-storey rent-subsidized apartment building that includes a total of 441 units. internally, three vertical ‘communication cells’ — the elevators, stairwells, and technical shafts — determine the layout of each of the properties. the apartments, some of which are duplexes, have between two and five rooms.
‘le théâtre’ demarcates a communal outdoor plaza
opposite, ‘le théâtre’ is a semi-circular structure, which comprises a series of reflective glass columns. the private building houses 130 apartments and also demarcates a communal outdoor plaza. ‘the open space is enveloped by the circularity of the building, whose convexity gives a sensation of protective shelter,’ explains RBTA. ‘an impression of privacy flows from it, inverting the initial impression of monumentality.’ finally, at the center of the scheme, ‘l’arc’ contains a smaller number of homes. the roofs of both ‘le théâtre’ and ‘l’arc’ are tree-planted, but remain inaccessible to residents.
the private ‘le théâtre’ building houses 130 apartments
‘thanks to a system of heavy pre-casting, it was possible to use an extensive and complex architectural language,’ say the architects. ‘different readings of the buildings, as a constant change in the scale and the references to ledoux, gaudí and gabriel, among others, lead to the specific eclectic vocabulary of this project. the façades were built from prefabricated sections, cut according to their individual shapes and not in framed panels, so that the joints are invisible. these panels are stone, a mixture of sand, gray and white cement and oxides.’
‘le palacio’ looking towards ‘le théâtre’
‘le palacio’ comprises three buildings laid out in a U-shape
the housing development accommodates around 600 units
at the center of the scheme, ‘l’arc’ contains a smaller number of homes
surfaces and façades offer a range of color variations
façades were built from prefabricated sections, cut according to their individual shape
various historical references are present throughout the project
the project, and its postmodern architecture, was featured in the ‘hunger games’ trilogy
name: les espaces d’abraxas
location: new town of marne la vallée, region of paris, france
client: le théatre et l’arc: S.A. d’ H.L.M. les trois vallées le palacio: C.N.H. 2000
total area: 47,000 sqm
architecture in france (310 articles)
architecture in paris (93 articles)
ricardo bofill taller de arquitectura (16 articles)
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designed to provide a safe refuge for hikers, the small timber construction is built on the mountain top at 2908 meters above sea level.
in an aesthetic dialogue, a second lighter volume complements the dark facade and imposes itself as an urban landmark.
the diagonal lines of the extended roof plane are designed to shield the interior space from direct sunlight.
the images illustrate the composition of the house, where the original wooden structure sits on top of its more recently built foundation.