Photo © Sipane Hoh

Les Arcades du Lac

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Saint Quentin-en-Yvelines, Paris, France

This, the first major project by the Taller de Arquitectura to be built in France, forms part of the villes nouvelles policy which the French government adopted for the outskirts of Paris: whole towns created from scratch in order to ease the congestion in the city centre and promote orderly growth while avoiding as far as possible the creation of mere suburbs. As well as being the first of Bofill’s constructions in France, this scheme constitutes a significant landmark in the history of the Taller de Arquitectura. In the texts of the time which served to introduce the project, the point of departure was established as being the relationship between technology and architectural history, thus defining and seeking to combine avant la lettre the two different tendencies which were subsequently taken up the movement known as postmodernism.

A product of the darkest moment of the crisis of the 70s, this is a project which seeks to resolve the acute housing problem speedily and economically. The form and distribution of the blocks of apartments is based on the elements of a French garden, introducing a considerable change of scale and transforming the hedges into buildings. This layout made it possible to generate the public spaces basic to the formation of the town: the street and the square. The street as the place of circulation, and the square as the place for meetings and get-togethers. Thanks to the large underground car park which links all the blocks together, all of the streets are exclusively pedestrian, some of them flanked by porticoes.

The orthogonal layout of the blocks, streets and squares also evokes a solution adopted on a number of historic occasions, from the Hippodamus of Miletus to New York, by way of La Valette and Ildefons Cerdà’s Barcelona. The simplicity of the orthogonal organization is amply justified by the functional efficiency, all the more so in times of crisis such as the period from which the scheme dates. The compositional analysis of the French garden was not restricted to a reproduction of its forms, but was a genuine attempt at creating a garden city, in which the vegetation and the lake play a fundamental part. The notable presence of the lake prompted the construction of and the form adopted for new blocks of housing built out over the water in a return to the famous over the water in a return to the famous French tradition of building castles on bridges, especially in the Loire region. The Taller de Arquitectura’s final concern, at the moment of the project’s starting on site, focused on the danger arising from the ease with which the urban model they had evolved could be picked up and copied without a similar recreation of the rigorous analysis which necessarily preceded their scheme. In time, their misgivings were in part confirmed, and the postmodern movement that was then beginning to emerge was discredited by an unthinking vulgarization comparable to that suffered in its time by the Modern Movement.

389 subsidized apartments grouped in four square blocks with a spacious interior courtyard, accessible from the street. The buildings consist of ground floor and three upper floors. The decision to observe a maximum depth of only 8-10 (26’-33’) metres to the apartment blocks means that all the houses have dual orientation. The stairs are located in pavilions which project out from the façade, serving two doors to a landing and giving direct access to the car park.

program 163 dwellings and public spaces with plazas and gardens on the shores of an artificial lake.

client: Foyer du fonctionnaire et de la famille

gross area: 31,000 m2

Other Projects by Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura

Teatro Nacional de Cataluña
Barcelona, Spain
Miguel Delibes Cultural Center
Valladolid, Spain
Cartier Head Office
Paris, France
Corso II
Prague, Czech Republic
Shiseido Building
Tokyo, Japan
Les Temples du Lac
Paris, France