Urban Collage by
Maison Edouard François


Gabled bungalows are scattered over the rooftops of bulky apartment blocks that are perched above rows of narrow townhouses in this social housing development outside Paris by French studio Maison Edouard François (+ slideshow).

Urban Collage by Maison Edouard Francois

Urban Collage was designed by architect Edouard François to contain a mixture of all the surrounding residential typologies in the suburban neighbourhood in Champigny-sur-Marne.

Urban Collage by Maison Edouard Francois

The three-storey townhouses provide the base of the structure and are clad with copper or zinc panels or terracotta tiles. Each one also has its own entrance from the street.

Urban Collage by Maison Edouard Francois

The apartment blocks span the middle sections, while the individual houses are dotted across the rooftops. Both can be accessed using staircases slotted between the townhouses.

Urban Collage by Maison Edouard Francois

Describing the designs during a talk last year, François said: "I cannot do beauty, because it will make the rest look ugly, so I decided to do something very ugly, to make the rest look pretty."

Urban Collage by Maison Edouard Francois

Now complete, the development provides 114 new residences as well as shops and parking areas for residences.

Urban Collage by Maison Edouard Francois

Edouard François is known as a pioneer of sustainable developments and green walls. See more of his projects on Dezeen, including housing set in an "urban wilderness".

Urban Collage by Maison Edouard Francois

This isn't the first project we've featured that looks like a pile of buildings. Others include a set of apartments in Japana hotel in the Netherlands and a furniture gallery in Germany.

Urban Collage by Maison Edouard François

Photography is by Paul Raftery.

Here's a description from Maison Edouard François:

Urban Collage, Champigny-sur-Marne, 2012
Avenue du 8 mai 1945, Rue du 11 novembre 1918, Les Mordacs, 94500 Champigny-sur-Marne, France

At Champigny-sur-Marne, respect of the context and the refusal to interpret it led us to take a unique position. The site is a grand ensemble that was built in the 1970's: a large zone of housing filled with towers and multi-story housing blocks near the old town center. The program asked for an urban renewal plan based on a new town center with shops and housing.

Urban Collage by Maison Edouard François

Assuming that the city is a complex body, we superimposed elements found on site: townhouses at the base, a housing block from the 1950's in the middle, and on the roof, single family homes. We organized them as archetypes to be read from bottom to top. The complexity of this project lies in the vertical superposition of these structural elements, shifting the three typologies independently.

Urban Collage by Maison Edouard François

Beyond the creation a new retail shops, the perception of centrality is also reinforced by the creation of numerous entries, gateways, lines of sight, and alleys that open the block to passers-by. These anchor the project in its context. The townhouses have separate entries from the sidewalk. Their copper, zinc, and tile facades complete the scenography.

Urban Collage by Maison Edouard François

The quality of the housing plays a central role in this new story: the apartments open on two opposite sides and meet the highest standards of energy efficiency.

Urban Collage by Maison Edouard François

Program: 114 social housing unit, retail, parking
Client: Paris Habitat
Team: Maison Edouard François, Intégrale 4 (structure), Nicolas Ingénierie (Mechanical Engineering), Pre Carre (landscape architect)
Area: 9 000 m² Net Floor Area
Budget: 14,3 M €

Urban Collage by Maison Edouard François

Competition: 2006
Construction permit: 2008
Delivery: 2012
Environmental Label: Label H&E (Habitat & Environnement)

Urban Collage by Maison Edouard François

Above: site plan - click above for larger image

Urban Collage by Maison Edouard François

Above: section - click above for larger image

Urban Collage by Maison Edouard François

Above: street elevation - click above for larger image

  • Don

    Don’t know what to think about that. Should that be the course for modern architecture? Or is it just a joke? There is, however, something appealing in this project.

  • marco

    Ha, look! A building that looks like a joke! How fresh!

  • ringermcpinger

    Waste of time, money, opportunity and air. Pathetic.

  • ahnlei

    Only in France – no where else would something this horrid be allowed to go all the way to completion!

  • n n

    In Belgrade we actually have this – single family houses growing spontaneously on top of multifamily housing. Typologically, it surely is an interesting approach, but one would expect a bit more articulation when designed by an architect – it just seems oversimplified.

    Fighting ugliness with ugliness might be an interesting experiment, but personally I’m not pesuaded by this particular outcome.

  • cubert

    Yes – architectural jokes, pretentious architects, but no substance. I’m tired of this kind of strategy. It seems like the only aim is to publish the project.

  • daybo

    François said: ”I cannot do beauty, because it will make the rest look ugly, so I decided to do something very ugly, to make the rest look pretty.”

    This project has banality and architectural hubris written all over it.

  • Charlotte

    Who ARE these people, consistently trashing anything that doesn’t fit the bill of, shall we say, predictable safe aestheticised minimalism? Before I got to the comments here I knew the haters would have already been hovering. Edouard François makes fantastic, exciting architecture and takes ideas seriously, an approach predictably too much for most of these haters to compute.

    • ringermcpinger

      Warped! For me we cannot just exercise any zanny idea that comes to mind. The built environment is not a sketchpad for the clumsy, moronic, high-horse privileged. Architects firstly have an obligation to serve the public, not themselves.

      It reeks of a sad internal struggle that has culminated in something confused and out of tune. Bit like yourself really. “Don’t be a hero Jonny” comes to mind.

    • Magnus

      Thank you Charlotte! Edouard has had the courage to build something completely different that is sure to keep on exciting residents and urban passers-by for generations to come, not just designing a minimalist scuplture to dazzle in 2D.

    • MZK

      Hmm, interesting. But then what? Because it’s different we are not allowed to say that we don’t like it? Like ringermcpinger said, I think that architecture is not (or at least not just) about finding something new, some new shape never made before, like art can be. Just because it has a huge responsibility: people will live in and around it for decades. That’s why it should be more about “make something good for people” than “find a new crazy design for magazines”. But I don’t know what this architect does, maybe it’s a perfect architecture inside, who knows ? But then why are there no pictures of the inside?

      If it’s horrible to live in (like I know is happening to housing from Frederic Borel), will you go to see people the living in it and say “yes I know it’s not really comfortable for you, but well… it’s a totally new shape and design, so it’s great”? (Again, I don’t know if it’s like this or not, I just guess as he doesn’t show any inside pictures, which let us think that he cares less than for the outside).

  • chknmurph

    I just threw up in my mouth.

  • tg80

    Screen these projects a little bit – this kind of nonsense can’t be encouraged.

  • I agree with Don that there’s definitely something appealing about this project (and many more factors that aren’t) but what struck me when looking at this piece is that from ground level the houses on top link in my mind to some tourists wandering around on the top of buildings looking over the edge, showing a bit of curiosity, and in turn the curiosity of the viewer at ground level as to what exactly is happening up there.

  • Lolo Raybee

    The only moment this project seems to achieve a certain kind of quality is on the seventh picture, where you see the surrounding houses and the continuation of the urban typology as copy-pasted on top of the garbage mountain. Pity about the rest of it. Too bad.

  • mattgaro

    It makes me so sad :(

  • kolobok

    MVRDV was here? :D

  • MZR

    “I want my project to be published! I want my project to be published! What can I do for it? Okay, lets do a patchwork and f*ck the people who will live in it!”

    Pathetic, but at least it brings attention to this great problem nowadays with architects who don’t design buildings for people anymore but only pictures of buildings for magazines.

    If this is French architecture, I’m not a French architect anymore. But luckily it’s definitely not :)

  • James

    I want to see a proper section showing how they are supported in a stack. Structurally this looks quite interesting.

  • Simon

    Looks like something UK planners would have done!

  • Magnus

    Amazing! If only there were more clients with a penchant for silliness! Humor is important in architecture and beyond being a joke, the variety of typologies achieved here is great for a large housing project.

    • MZK

      Ok I agree about humour because it’s important in life. But would you live in a joke (as this building seems to be one) for 50 years? Do you think that we can ask people to spend their life in this kind of building just because we want our friends to laugh during 2 minutes when we’ll show them pictures of it?

      Real question, I’m wondering!

  • Magnus

    Much like West 8’s Borneo-Sporenburg housing project in Amsterdam – all varieties of housing typologies – but stacked. Brilliant.

  • Romain

    Levity is absolutely admissible in architecture… And conformism only breeds uniformity. Hundertwasser had a similar “patchwork” approach, I may not approve with the final aesthetics of his work but I have to admit that his architectural “UFO’s” are a welcome breath of fresh air in otherwise bleak city-scapes.

    French eclecticism from the XIXth century also comes to mind: then derided for its garishness, it has made its way back into our hearts and greatly contributes to the architectural diversity of French towns and cities.

    It reminds me of Grant E. Hamilton’s commissioned work for the February Issue of Judge Magazine (1895), we were warned :) http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/paleofuture/2011/

    • Rob

      Garbage. The image you cite has various elements that are each complex and beautiful in their way. This project consists of elements that look like they could have been stamped out by a factory. It’s another architect making an ironic statement on the banality of the machine-age built environment, with cartoon single-family housing, etcetera. Aren’t we sick of architects commenting on the ugliness of society by making it uglier? Our culture has been reduced to adolescent vandalism. A $200,000 education teaches you to justify it.

  • Mr.J

    It hurts my eyes to look at this.

  • Mr.J

    It's an architectural Frankenstein!

  • Greg

    It is quite interesting and offers some whimsy!

  • h28

    It is horrible from my side. Imagine the people living in or on front of this – it is a non-educational building.

  • Farid


  • stavanger

    Horrible?! How empty and poor-minded must one be to call this ugly. François is one of the very few architects around who gives a damn compared to the majority of the reason-driven and academically brainwashed minds. MVRDV, so what? This is courageous, imaginative, inspirational and real – i.e. beautiful. Hats off for the client too!