Urban reinvention: an inspiring competition explores Paris’ neglected sites

Graphic design of multi storey building with green balconies
Edison Lite by Manuelle Gautrand Architecture is housed in a vacant plot. The residential project boasts 30% of shared spaces, including a 'wine cellar workshop', a rooftop vegetable garden and an open kitchen.
(Image credit: Manuelle Gautrand Architecture)

Reinventing.Paris, an ambitious architectural competition aiming to carry out what the French capital's Mayor Anne Hidalgo calls 'an urban experiment on an unparalleled scale', just had its winners announced. Making innovation its key requirement, the contest challenged participants to push the boat on every level, be it building program, shapes or management strategies. 

The historical city has reinvented itself time and again over the centuries and now is seeking solutions that would respond to our evolving urban lifestyles; buildings that allow for flexible 'hybrid' use; new work practices, cutting-edge services and retail concepts; sharing and intelligent energy production.  

The scheme spans 23 sites owned by the city or by social housing agencies, which would help facilitating future implementation of the winning schemes. Scattered across Paris, the sites include abandoned or underused facilities, a 15th-century mansion, a former public bath and a number of vacant spots. Just like in nose-to-tail cooking, Paris wants to consider using every available urban bit, be it roof, basement, or a waste lot by the ring road. 

Constructive dialogue is vital for this ambitious project to happen. The competition brief made this clear right from the start. Submissions had to be made by teams in which different professionals got together at the concept development stage. This gave rise to collaborations between architects, investors, developers, contractors, but also researchers, chefs, nightclub managers, NGOs, local residents and urban farmers. The equally diverse competition jury comprised architects, politicians, innovative entrepreneurs, and scientists from various domains.

Biodiversity and the 'productive city' were among the central concepts investigated by the winners. The most striking examples include X-TU architects' project that features facades acting as a micro-algae-based bioreactor; a design by Sou Fujimoto and Manal Rachdi that places a whole green village above the ring road; and DGT architects' scheme in which everything about healthy food, from production to consumption, is gathered in a tower 'grown' out of an abandoned train station.

We may have to wait a few years to see these buildings complete, but the winning designs, along with the other proposals that made it to the first stage of the Reinventing.Paris competition – some 358 from over 800 entries – can now be seen in a multimedia exhibition at the Pavillon de l'Arsenal until 8 May.

Buildings seen from across the river

The Mixité Capitale (Capital Mix) project is designed by David Chipperfield Architects and Calq Architecture, with Olafur Eliasson and Studio Other Spaces (artistic intervention) and Michel Desvigne (landscape design). The competition's flagship project transforms a building occupied by municipal services into a mixed-use scheme. Apartments, offices, food market, hotel and youth hostel, nursery, sports club and cultural space are topped by a panoramic bar and restaurant, where Olafur Eliasson and Studio Other Spaces will develop their artistic concept. 

(Image credit: David Chipperfield Architects)

Brown building with large windows

Pablo Katz Architecture's Le Relais d'Italie is a former conservatory building converted into a co-working and cultural facility, with student housing added as a rooftop extension. 

(Image credit: Pablo Katz Architecture)

Multi storey building surrounding green park

La Ville multi-strate  (The Multi-Layered City), a concept by Jacques Ferrier Architectures, Chartier Dalix Architectes, SLA Paysagistes is a project spanning the belt road and thus connecting Paris and its suburbs. This triangular plot will accommodate a new neighbourhood with a mix of housing, offices, and retail. 

(Image credit: Bnp Paribas Real Estate / Jacques Ferrier Architectures / Chartier Dalix Architectes / SLA Paysagistes / Splann)

Long curved building lit up at night

Mille arbres (A Thousand Trees) is a submission by Sou Fujimoto Architects and Manal Rachdi, Oxo Architectes with Moz Paysage, Atelier Paul Arène and Pierre-Alexandre Risser Horticulture & Jardins. Built on top of an existing bus parking garage, this 'floating village in the middle of a forest' will span the ring road and create 'a new green skyline for Paris'.

(Image credit: Sou Fujimoto Architects + Manal Rachdi Oxo Architectes + Companie de Phalsbourg + Ogic - Morph)

Busy street lined with tall buildings

L'Auberge Buzenval, conceived by Studios d'architecture Ory et Associés, sits in a vacant plot and will host a new-concept hotel encouraging tourists to mingle with creative Parisians. Its guest rooms will neighbour co-working and rehearsal spaces, as well as a 'participative restaurant'. 

(Image credit: Studios d'architecture Ory et Associés )

White block building

NOC 42 is a project by AR architectures with Christian Delécluse. Here, an empty ground-floor garage in an existing housing block will host affordable student flats for a local school. Shared terraces will allow local residents to cultivate vegetable gardens.

(Image credit: AR architectures)

Crossroads with buildings on each corner

Bains-douche&Co by Red / Architect: BGPA invovles a former public bath from the 1930s that will be transformed into a co-working space, with France's tallest timber structure residential building providing a spectacular background. Innovative lighting concept uses solar energy and optic fibre. 

(Image credit: TBC)

Tall wooden building in park

Lina Ghotmeh (of DGT architects) created Réalimenter Masséna (Re-feeding Masséna) in a disused train station. This was transformed into a tower serving as a home base for all things foodie, from urban agriculture facilities to market, canteen, and workshops for artists and chefs in residence.

(Image credit: DGT (Dorell.Ghotmeh.Tane / Architects))


For more information on Reinventing.Paris visit the website

Reinventing.Paris will be on show at the Pavillion de l'Arsenal until 8th May 2016


Pavilion de l'Arsenal
21, Bld Morland
75004 Paris