At the end of an international architecture competition launched by GENERAL ELECTRIC CAPITAL REAL ESTATE in July 2007, Dominique Perrault Architecture was appointed winner of the project for the requalification of the Pont de Sèvres Towers. After the conclusion of a partnership with BNP PARIBAS REAL ESTATE, in 2011, the project got a new lease of life with the effective reorganization of the Trapèze District and the confirmation that the SAEM Val de Seine Aménagement starts a full reurbanization process for the Pont de Sèvres District.
Through an answer, which, could first appear minimalist, the architect, who delivered in 2009 a corner building marking the new Cours de l’Ile Seguin (the structuring axis of the Zac du Trapeze, leading to the Pont Renault, linking Boulogne-Billancourt to its island) is involved again in the transformation of the place by proposing a luminous landmark for one of the most ambitious programs in the service sector of the Western Paris area.
On a second reading, the project increases in power to finally impose its dialectic intelligence with its obvious’ strength. Dialectic because the project recovers the virtues of an architecture too easily put down, creates the required connections with the new city, which is rapidly taking shape on the French industrial vestiges, through the the frenetic appearance of contemporary signatures, but also with the metropolis which is gradually building up.
Through a non historicist practice of architecture (non heretical either), Dominique Perrault preserves, completes the existing devices to establish Citylights in the geographic reality of an under constructed territory. He keeps a certain attachment to the strong geometry of the towers, to the different heights and lay out of the floors. This geometric severity contributes paradoxically to the modernity of the architecture, which tends to lose its shapes more too often.
The high complex composed of 3 towers, all formed with 3 main bodies of building (petals), with hexagonal shapes, comes to different heights, creating the effect of an organ flues assembling . Faded and drab, the ageing arrays contrast today with the blazing outfits of the constructions sprouting out of the ground, plunging all the district of the Pont de Sèvres, whose constructions responding to each other, into a lifeless urban isolation.
After taking off the worn dress of the towers, Perrault, the architect-fashion designer, wraps them in a smooth outlines finery contrasting with the roughness of the outlines of yesteryear. To the vertical stripes succeeding in a horizontal structure with huge transparent glass elements allowing to see a second skin alternating transparency and silver shades thanks to a dwarf wall covered up with polished natural aluminium and to silver metal blinds. At the piers place, the outside glass is screen printed with horizontal stripes, recalling the rhythm of the blinds. The ochre shades give place to the metal coloured reflections.
The new façade spreads out on one third of each petal’s height a bracelet, whose pearls are like many oblique façade elements, moving away and coming closer successively from/to the piers to which they are hung up. This finery brings life to each petal, materializing and energizing the façades by setting up some height landmarks. Those landmarks give to the passers-by a way of measuring the dimensions of the highest building of the district. These new devices whose outside skin is made of folds and double folds .it je n contrasts with the immateriality of the original façade system by multiplying the reflections on all perspectives. So the treasures of the sky answer to the life of the city in a chorus of lights and brightness.
The bracelets are as many blazes, spotlights turned on 360° to Paris and its outskirts introducing with the light the new limits of the city and inviting the Seine River and its banks, the hillsides of Sèvres, Meudon and Suresnes and their terraced constructions to take part in the inexhaustible display of the city.
From an architectural and urban standpoint, the project completes the South-West City 2 Tower (formerly called Chenonceaux) with a new petal rising to 10 levels. The expansion repeats, through a slightly updated structural system, the hexagonal shape but also the dimension of the petals in order to structure the parcel, by drawing attention to the entrance point clearly. So the project allows, through the enlargement of the tower, to reach the fragmented limit and to create a façade built on the avenue, drawing the outlines of a large forecourt whose minerality and dimensions refer to the public spaces, giving to the place some institutional style while highlighting the urban anchorage of Citylights. The façade’s treatment of homogeneity brings the expansion of a perfect integration to the project.
At last Perrault breaks! He breaks the slab on which the towers are set up which leads the Pont de Sèvres District out of the city. Real manifesto of the modernist architecture, with asserted geometric shapes volumes, its varied heights, and its terraced constructions softens the mass effect, the Pont de Sèvres District is standing on a base that separates itself from the city by a few meters, raising the Paris South-west entrance on a pedestal.
GENERAL ELECTRIC CAPITAL REAL ESTATE and BNP PARIBAS REAL ESTATE coordinate the works with the SAEM Val de Seine Aménagement and City’s projects, which started the opening up of the district with the achievement of a footbridge linking up the top of the forum with the General Leclerc avenue. The project tackles and breakes up the radicality of the existing urban system by recreating some connections at the natural ground level, i.e. by building the towers first floor at the same level as the city, thanks to a clever planning of the level differences inside the building.
The lobby, with its lofty canopy made of polished stainless steel and leaning mirrors and with its inside levels, suggests the opulence of reception spaces, and allows a glimpse of the organisation at the common base, linking up the 3 towers on 3 levels and offering a very large space for services, places for meetings and exchanges. This atypical organisation with a forum on several levels overhung by almost 70,000 m² of offices functions as a vertical campus sheltering in the same place some restaurants and cafeterias, a fitness club, a travellers lobby, a concierge service, an intercompany nursery, a conference centre…The warm and soft atmosphere of the inside spaces designed by Didier Gomez, creates a contrast with the metal shades of the façade.
Located at the outpost of the Grand Paris, Citylights multiplies urban virtues and takes part in the territory’s transformation process. Beyond the geographic landmark introducing the new city, the significant renovation and enlargement of the Pont de Sèvres Towers enhances the under way urban planning process in the Trapèze Disctrict and the Ile Seguin. Without forgetting what was done before. The project takes part in a huge process of transforming the territory, by highlighting the redevelopment of a competitive and attractive service sector along the first ring of the Parisian West area, without failing to enhance and favor large monofunctional spaces .
As a real control tower dominating Boulogne, Citylights illustrates in light the current urban transformations made on the metropolis’ scale.