As the average price for housing within central Paris crosses the threshold of €10,000/m², long-time residents and newcomers alike find themselves wondering how anyone can afford to own or rent within the City of Lights.
Paris is no stranger to housing shortages. The 20 arrondissements defined by the vehicular Périphérique ring road has protected itself with building codes that limit construction heights and density - a great success for maintaining urban and architectural identity, but also a constraint on the population's long-term housing demands. To counter this, large residential developments have been constructed in the surrounding banlieues. Many new projects are currently under construction, and several others are planned in the future to meet growing demand and in preparation for, among other things, the 2024 Paris Olympics. Paris also can lay claim to benefitting from a strong network of local and regional train systems that provide easy access to the city from towns located along its RER and TER lines. But the skyrocketing square meter prices for housing within Paris' large urban center are evidence enough that more must be done to maintain a balanced population of residents from all income levels.
This competition has been run in partnership with ARCHHIVE BOOKS as part of Bee Breeders' Global Housing Availability Challenge series. The series seeks unique ideas for cities around the world facing housing shortages, and the corresponding exacerbation of social and economic imbalances. The Paris Affordable Housing Challenge is tasking participants with designing a sustainable solution to Paris’ affordable housing problem. It was a conceptual call for ideas. Implementable, novel, and thought-provoking solutions were sought. No specific location was defined, as the competition sought ideas versatile enough to be adapted to multiple locations in or around Paris. Participants were asked to consider designs flexible enough to accommodate families, couples, single professionals, and mixed residence types.
Designs that responded to Paris uniquely were judged positively, in particular those that showed an advanced level of urban, social, or political analysis. What aspects of Paris' urban composition might be utilized to accommodate additional housing? The response was varied, with proposals tackling ideas for new housing types, others re-thinking the utilization of the existing housing stock, and many focused on identifying underutilized spaces within Paris for new construction.
Jury feedback summary
'Monumental Housing' focuses on the fundamental structure of Hausmann-designed Paris: landmark 'places' meant to serve as the key organizational elements of the city. Here, 12 housing blocks are designed to be dispersed throughout the city as a new form of cultural monument. Each block is to house a collection of new apartments. These are clad in a perforated metal panel that replaces the human scale of the apartment with a unitless pattern that tends toward the sculptural. The blocks are limited in their connections to the ground, to allow space for open public parks below. The project is reminiscent of Bernard Tschumi's famed competition-winning entry for Paris' Park de La Villette in the mid 1980's, in its application of a standardized sculptural element across the space of the city - a means for visual orientation and placemaking. The proposal is quirky without being gimmicky, and the judges applaud its boldness.