It’s a prescient political moment (remember yesterday’s news?) to take a careful look back at what architects have done to intervene in the banlieues on the outskirts of Paris. An exhibition at the Deutsches Architekturmuseum in Frankfurt am Main provides an overview of perhaps the most successful and definitely the most prominent architectural example to date: the conversion of the Tour Bois Le Prêtre housing structure by French architects Anne Lacaton, Jean-Philippe Vassal, and Frédéric Druot, which was completed in 2011.
Through installation of a new glass façade and the creation of winter gardens within the structure, the residents’ formerly cramped living quarters were ingeniously expanded by the architectural upgrade. Inventively transforming an existing structure according to a sensitivity for the inhabitants’ needs, the tower is a hallmark example for the possibilities of improving life in these unfortunate 1960s social housing settlements. Perhaps most notable of all, the cost was no greater than it would have been to tear down the tower and build new apartments as was originally planned.
An extensive list of cultural events will take place this autumn in Frankfurt am Main, as part of the Europa Cultural Days program financed by the European Central Bank. The Deutsches Architekturmuseum has chosen a relevant and intelligent project to exhibit during these months -- if you’re in Frankfurt, don’t miss it.