This 5000 m2 site is located half an hour’s drive west from the Paris city centre. The rather flat ground slightly tilts to the north, just before it drops abruptly towards river Seine. A few metre rise permits an ample view of the Parisian outskirts.
The whole original setup resembles of a clearing in a forest not allowing a view beyond its dense periphery. In the northern part of the plot, a late 18th Century orangery is inhabited by a six person family. This building was extended to accommodate the private areas of the family members while the reception, office and service areas remained in the existing building. The spacious grounds were left mostly untouched leaving only the north-western part available for new constructions, which ultimately led to an “L”-shaped plan.
Local specific site requirements allow only one single building with a gabled or hipped roof. Therefore only an annexe type of building is possible. Furthermore the maximum height of a construction is restricted to eight meters while the former seven-meter high ceiling of the original orangery volume was revealed.
Without a specific geometry the roughly 50m long ground floor of the extension opens up from the north-western side of the orangery. Due to the stringent height limitations, the ground floor remains up to two meters below the original ground level. The whole flank of the building towards the boundary of the plot is covered with soil, which is continued on top of the 7% inclined roof. On the opposite side, along the south-eastern facade, a complex topography emerges between the house and its landscape. Carved towards every entrance in the glazing, the river-bed-shaped, undulating terrain distorts to ensure an efficient access and exit.
The private sector, shared by the six inhabitants – four children and two parents – is fragmented into four different elements. Each occupies a certain part of the ground floor which gradually develops into a more private zone, without doors, communicating with the other family members.
The local building code allows however, in exceptional cases flat roofs, as long as they do not exceed 25m2 each. Thus five three-storied tower-like volumes were implemented, stamping through the garden roof. The glazing around each “tower” provides natural lighting and an intriguing succession of perspectives between inside and outside, above and below. In each private tower, located on the ground level, there is a dressing room and storage space; on the mezzanine, a bathroom and finally, on the second floor, a bedroom. The slightly bigger tower for the parents has a rooftop garden from where one has a clear view of “La Défense”, the business district of the modern Paris with its sky scrapers.