MAD architectes builds UNIC, its first European building in Paris

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unic: unique architecture in paris

MAD Architects founder Ma Yansong leads his team to complete UNIC, the studio’s first building in Europe, which now stands as a sculptural landmark in Paris’ 17th arrondissement. The thirteen-story residential work marks the latest development in the growing eco-district Clichy-Batignolles, which the French capital sees as a model of sustainable development.

Completion of the project comes after ten years of work, having been selected as the winner of an international design competition in 2012 (see previous designboom coverage here). Today, Ma Yansong has become the first Chinese architect to design a major building both in Paris and in the whole of Europe. designboom spoke with Ma Yansong about creating the curvy and sustainable project.

image © Jared Chulski

fluid design by crazy architects

When designing its UNIC residential project in Paris, the MAD Architectes team favors sustainable to eco-district standards while remaining dynamic with its organic expression. With its curved profiles and irregular, staggered balconies, the undulating form of the building creates a playful contrast to the Haussmann buildings that line the edge of nearby Martin Luther King Park and decorate the plot.

From these puffy terraces and the light-filled living spaces within, occupants gaze out through planted trees across the city and 25-acre park. The apartments on the south side even offer a view of the Eiffel Tower over four kilometers away.

crazy architects unic paris
image © Jared Chulski

designboom (DB): UNIC’s architecture is characterized by its organically shaped floor plates. Was there a specific visual reference that inspired them?

Ma Yansong (MY): To a certain extent, I was inspired by Le Corbusier’s Unite d’habitation. His modernist typology of residential habitat and his manifesto “A house is a machine for living in” were revolutionary at the time. In the post-war period, when there was a great need to solve housing problems, efficiency, low cost and reproduction were priorities. We won the UNIC competition in 2012.

Globalization was in full swing. Diversity and individuality were highly valued. Rapid urbanization has caused certain problems of living in cities. The context is no longer the same. Exactly sixty years after Le Corbusier’s experiment, we need to reconsider what the ideal life is and discuss it in the current social context. I think equality, diversity, individuality and closeness to nature could be important.

crazy architects unic paris
image © Jared Chulski

a mix of apartment types on top of a public podium

The UNIC of MAD architectes in Paris is dynamic both in its form and in its layout. Each unique floor plan is carefully organized so that, just like the terraces, no two are identical. The non-repeating levels result in part from the combination of affordable housing and luxury units and are made possible by a simple dual-core structure. The building’s bare concrete facade opens to floor-to-ceiling windows that welcome the sounds and sights of Paris’ bustling city life inside.

The apartments are supported by a large podium on the ground floor which is connected to an adjacent social housing project and which provides direct access to the local metro station. This podium is programmed with equipment open to both the inhabitants of the building and the residents. The mix of facilities includes retail spaces, restaurants and a kindergarten, and encourages relationships between the many occupants of the affordable and luxury apartments.

crazy architects unic paris
image © Jared Chulski

designed in the spirit of the eco-district

The developing district of Clichy-Batignolles in which UNIC is located illustrates Paris’ commitment to reducing its carbon footprint while introducing housing for around 7,500 inhabitants.

To design a residential project worthy of its site and its occupants, MAD Architectes and the local architecture firm Biecher Architectes worked in close collaboration with the Parisian State, architects and town planners. The team says:Like many of its neighboring buildings, UNIC had to meet Passivhaus building standards, which required the use of high-performance glazing, passive heating and cooling design strategies, and a range of high-density materials that would further contribute to its overall temperature regulation..’

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