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grand arches line SOA's 'parc princesse' social housing in le vésinet, france

social housing arrives to le vésinet

 

A newly completed social housing project, dubbed Parc Princesse, has been designed for the town of Le Vésinet by French architecture studio SOA. Set within a Napoleonic hospital park, the project embraces a delicate landscape sequence, treating it as a fragment of living heritage. The guiding principle behind the project is to coexist harmoniously with the surrounding trees, employing an architectural language that seamlessly integrates with the natural environment. The complex balances presence and subtlety, gracefully weaving between the trees and avoiding a confrontational stance against the natural elements. The building’s matte envelope, which the architects compare to the ‘Île-de-France’ sky, conceals the structure amongst the wooded site, while its metallic edges shimmer, to lend a chiaroscuro of dramatic shadows and highlights.

grand arches line SOA's 'parc princesse' social housing in le vésinet, franceimages © Camille Gharbi | video © Timothée Janssen

 

 

soa responds to the wooded landscape

 

With its Parc Princesse project, SOA introduces twenty-four social housing units to Le Vésinet, France. While the project further includes thirty-two housing units for private ownership, the architects at SOA were responsible for the social component. The wooded site, situated within the Parc Princesse as part of the recently established zone, poses unique constraints as it finds itself within a 19th-century hospital site with a significant historical park. Urban planners and landscapers TER carefully studied the natural richness of the environment to guide the project, emphasizing landscape preservation.

grand arches line SOA's 'parc princesse' social housing in le vésinet, france
the project occupies Le Vésinet’s historic Parc Princesse, delicately coexisting among the trees

 

 

the historic context of parc princesse

 

With the design of its Parc Princesse, SOA sought to respond to the surrounding context of Le Vésinet, which is occupied by architecturally unique nineteenth-century villas. The project faces the dual challenge of blending into this historic context while making a distinctive contemporary statement — a paradox which the team embraced. Collaborating with Lambert & Lenack architects, SOA developed a unique construction approach for the 56-unit development. The central idea involves a single structure, a grand villa of stacked duplexes, which morphs and fragments to nestle within the park’s subjects. This blending process results in original forms that align with the tradition of Le Vésinet’s villas.

The voids created by the trees shape a tripartite figure. Deconstructing the geometric volume, one wing is detached to expand the central core. This design not only opens up panoramic views but also directs the terraces inward, avoiding an overpowering presence in the park. The “introverted” figure portrays the concept of a house in the woods, embraced by the trees, enhancing the sense of intimacy.

parc princesse SOA france
SOA designs the architecture to disappear and reemerge into view through the woods

 

 

Responding to the internal gravity, the inverted sloping roofs draw the built elements toward the center, preventing the formation of a definitive geometric shape and maintaining the natural essence of the park. To blend with the wooded site, the building’s base features double-height arches, mirroring the dimensions and shapes of the spaces between the trees. Meanwhile, the facade design adopts a draped approach, enveloping the folded faces of various volumes. A rhythmic pattern of fifty-centimeter intervals punctuates a matte, light-colored plaster with reflective metallic bands. This hybrid material grounds the construction while blending it into the kinetic reflection of its lines, reminiscent of Eadweard Muybridge’s motion studies.

grand arches line SOA's 'parc princesse' social housing in le vésinet, france
a matte envelope is lined with metallic edges to add subtle highlights

 

 

Inside, the housing units are organized as stacked duplexes, ranging from small apartments to mezzanine-style one-bedroom units. The spacious and luminous volumes are a key feature of the design. Ground-floor units enjoy double-height corner living rooms with expansive views of the wooded areas. The kitchens are consistently separated, and bedrooms and the main bathroom are located on the upper floor.

grand arches line SOA's 'parc princesse' social housing in le vésinet, france
ground-floor units enjoy double-height corner living rooms with expansive views of the wooded areas

SOA-parc-princesse-vesinet-france-social-housing-designboom-06a

the double-height arches are designed to mirror the dimensions of the spaces between the trees

grand arches line SOA's 'parc princesse' social housing in le vésinet, france
double-height arches respond to the area’s 19th-century heritage and flood the interiors with sunlight 

SOA-parc-princesse-vesinet-france-social-housing-designboom-08a

the units are organized as stacked duplexes, ranging from small apartments to mezzanine-style one-bedrooms

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