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Author(s): O-S Architectes

A dense, perennal and social architecture

The challenge was significant. To construct a set of 20 social housing units (low energy consumption) on a very limited budget on a deep, narrow lot in a neighbourhood of isolated residential lots in Dijon. To establish a dense, lasting, social architecture.

The neighbourhood, close to the Dijon canal and comprised of houses and small buildings, displays stone partition walls alternating with openings offering views of interior courtyards. These breaks in the fabric led us to develop a project that used the depth of the lot, set back from the separating limits.

Thus, the program was shoe-horned into the length of the lot, and proposed a building 14 m wide, incorporating 14 three-room social housing units on the street side and 6 duplex town homes on the garden side. For us, using prefabricated concrete was a clear choice from the start, as the surrounding buildings and partition walls were very mineral, and the project is compact and rational.

In its way, the project illustrates a reconciliation between industrial and small-scale production, prefabrication and quality of detail, standardisation and character. Here, prefabricated concrete was selected to contribute greater wealth on the local scale through a material that is rich in solutions and appearances.

In France as in Chile, post-war history prominently featured prefabrication for the massive production of housing. Thus in 2014, Chile, with “Monolith Controversies” devoted its national pavilion to prefabricated concrete panels intended for the rapid construction of social housing. Implicitly, the pavilion presented the spasms of Chilean history through this housing and economic modernisation policy.

Prefabrication, the scapegoat of the reconstruction, now knows how to adapt to the necessary evolution of construction to reduce its environmental impact the slightest bit. We used white prefabricated panels with insulation sandwiched between the two concrete layers. They were left raw, offering a quality interior finish without the need to paint. The insulation is efficient as it is continuous on all facades. Some facade panels had a matrix finish, giving a subtle variation in the slab layout.

Rather than cutting holes in the panels to add windows, we put joinery between two panels for most of the facades. Windows are no longer holes, but spaces between the facade modules.

The ensemble was designed and audited in advance during studies to control construction costs, time scales, the tight construction scheduling, and the mineral and lasting appearance of the concrete skin. It was also a different way of working, through dialogue and collective sharing with the design offices and industrials. The project twisted standardisation qualitatively.

The prefabrication work helped offer high quality finishes on a tight and controlled budget, with wood joinery and wood floor borders in the common areas.

It was the economical design work that created the character of the project with simple, high quality architecture.

Function : 20 housings