Tour Bois-le-Prêtre by Frédéric Druot,
Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal

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This renovation of a crumbling 1960s tower block in Paris nicknamed "Alcatraz" topped the architecture category of this year's Designs of the Year Awards and is in the running for the top prize to be announced tonight (+ slideshow).

Tour Bois-le-Pretre by Frederic Druot Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal

The 16-storey Tour Bois-le-Prêtre, originally designed by French architect Raymond Lopez, contains 96 apartments in the northern outskirts of the city, but after 60 years of ageing and neglect the building needed a significant overhaul to bring the accommodation up to modern standards.

Tour Bois-le-Pretre by Frederic Druot Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal

French architect Frédéric Druot teamed up with Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal of Lacaton & Vassal on the competition-winning redesign. Their renovation included extending the floorplates outwards to increase the size of rooms plus create new conservatories and balconies.

Tour Bois-le-Pretre by Frederic Druot Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal

A facade of corrugated aluminium clads the new exterior of the tower, interspersed with large windows and glazed balconies. Floor-to-ceiling glass separates the apartments from the new terraces to let more natural light into each residence.

Tour Bois-le-Pretre by Frederic Druot Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal

Architect Amanda Levete, on the Designs of the Year judging panel, described the project as "a clever and elegant solution" that is "far from the usual cosmetic approach that fools no-one". She added: "Completed at half the cost of demolition and new build, this is an exemplary lesson in harnessing clever thinking and ingenuity to transform neglected parts of our cities."

Tour Bois-le-Pretre by Frederic Druot Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal

Tour Bois-le-Prêtre is one of the seven category winners of the Designs of the Year Awards, alongside a folding wheel and a medicine kit that can travel to developing countries in between Coca-Cola bottles. The overall winner is set to be announced later today.

Tour Bois-le-Pretre by Frederic Druot Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal

Other renovated apartment blocks we've featured include a tower surrounded by ribbon-like balconies in the Netherlands. See more renovations on Dezeen.

Tour Bois-le-Pretre by Frederic Druot Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal

Here are a few words from the architects and some project details in French:


The Bois-le-Prêtre Tower Metamorphosis

Conversion of 100 social dwellings, operation in occupied site and high environmental quality, 5 Bld du Bois le Prêtre, Paris 17ème

The project of metamorphosis of the "Bois Le Prêtre" Tower consists of a radical transformation of the conditions of comfort and habitability of the 100 residences of the occupied building. The tower built in 1962 by the architect Raymond Lopez, develops on 50m height, 16 levels serving each one 4 or 8 residences.

Tour Bois-le-Pretre by Frederic Druot Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal

By addition of heated extensions, winter-gardens and balconies, the overall surface of origin of 8900m2 is carried to 12460m2. This new organisation of surfaces and the precise technical improvements make it possible to adapt the rental offer while meeting by the creation of new typologies the needs for the families, to return lime pit foot the access to all the residences, to reduce passively, the consumption of energies of more than 50%, mainly by the addition of the winter-gardens.

Tour Bois-le-Pretre by Frederic Druot Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal

Maître d’ouvrage: PARIS HABITAT
Architecte mandataire: Frédéric Druot Architecture
Architectes associés: Anne Lacaton & Jean Philippe Vassal

Tour Bois-le-Pretre by Frederic Druot Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal

Etudes Fluide: INEX
Etudes Structure: VP Green Economie : E2I
Acoustique: Gui Jourdan

Tour Bois-le-Pretre by Frederic Druot Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal

Sécurité incendie et accessibilité: Vulcanéo
Pilote MOE: BATSCOP
Surface SHON: 12 460 m2 (dont 8900m2 existant)

Tour Bois-le-Pretre by Frederic Druot Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal

Coût des travaux: 11,2 euros HT
Livraison (en cours): Octobre 2011
Missions: Mission de base + Diagnostic + Concertation
Spécificités: Travaux en site occupé Certification CERQAL HQE

Tour Bois-le-Pretre by Frederic Druot Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal

Above: Tour Bois-le-Prêtre before the renovation

Tour Bois-le-Pretre by Frederic Druot Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal

Above: typical floor plan - click for larger image

Tour Bois-le-Pretre by Frederic Druot Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal

Above: long section - click for larger image

Tour Bois-le-Pretre by Frederic Druot Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal

Above: cross section - click for larger image

Tour Bois-le-Pretre by Frederic Druot Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal

Above: north elevation

Tour Bois-le-Pretre by Frederic Druot Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal

Above: west elevation

Tour Bois-le-Pretre by Frederic Druot Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal

Above: south elevation

Tour Bois-le-Pretre by Frederic Druot Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal

Above: east elevation

  • http://www.walnutgreydesign.com/ Mr Walnut Grey

    Wonder if I’m the only one who thinks the Tour Bois-le-Prêtre looked better before its renovation?

    • peter

      That’s quite a shallow observation. Consider how the residents felt about living in an aging social housing tower, I’d be pretty embarrassed. Check out the website, the flats were quite dark and sad. Without the residents moving out, or even taking pictures off the wall, their homes were transformed. It’s fantastic!

      • http://www.walnutgreydesign.com/ Mr Walnut Grey

        You are of course right in saying so Peter. I genuinely like the original facade, but as a resident would certainly prefer this much cleaner and fresher building. It's a fantastic project.

    • jef

      Great to add new spaces, but Raymond Lopez’s original design is missing, like the GSF Nettoyage Industriel neon.

  • FAN

    Fantastic! Phenomenal! Fabulous! Thank you Anne and Jean-Phillipe for showing the way forward.

  • Hermann Tringle

    So refreshing to see architecture at its best: concern for the wellbeing of dwellers, the preservation and improvement of an existing social setting through economy of means. Well done!

  • Jak

    I wouldn’t be upset if this became the STANDARD new, affordable accommodation built.

  • AsWicked

    Eat this Zaha Hadid! THIS is true architecture!

  • blau

    Saw them presenting this project a few years ago at a conference. Great to see it’s completed, and they look like great spaces full of potential for the occupants. Great job!

  • MZK

    “Wonder if I’m the only one who thinks the Tour Bois-le-Prêtre looked better before its renovation?”…

    Seriously, I wonder what happened to architecture nowadays when I see that some can still just think about appearance when they read about a project like this one.
    It’s not about only aesthetics, it’s about architecture.

    But maybe after seeing too many Hadid/Coop Himmelb(l)au projects we start to just care about how renderings look and not about how people will live and enjoy in this project.

    Great project anyway, thanks to the architects to care so much about people living in that buildings and cities, and very glad that Dezeen published it!

  • eisuke

    I really like the idea of the conservatory that could double up as an extended balcony. It must be such an added plus for the residents living in flats with no garden space. Being a flat dweller myself, I’m so jealous!

  • ncc

    How shocking it is to see in these interior shots how people really live, in real life. Doesn’t look like the usual architectural interior photos or renderings.

  • Mank

    Looked better before, but then it’s not always about looks.