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Reinterpreting Parisian Courtyards

2nd year project
Architectural Association School of Architecture
Tutor: Michel da Costa Gonçalves + Nathalie Rozencwajg + Harikleia Karamali

“ the flâneur is a joyful spectator who, while away from home, still feels at home everywhere at home within the public space; while he sees the world, he is also at the centre of the world, and even more, he remains hidden from the world, all at once.”

In an era where no clear architectural dogma exists, the project questions the future of Paris through stratification of the past.

The project addresses with the psychedelic effect of perception, investigating strata as the relationship between people and its surroundings through the act of strolling and observing.

Reality is often deformed by interpretations; the objective portraying of the city does not justify the intangible authenticity one experiences.

The project aims to reinterpret the concept of courtyards - the obsolete Parisian typology behind the mask of continuous Housmannian facade. Historically owned by a single family, now they merely serve as voids enabling sufficient sunlight for sub-divided apartments, the contemporary Parisians have lost their space of contemplation. The modern courtyard resituates itself as the pocket sanctuaries where modern citizens find their temporary escape from the accumulation of non-places and growing consumerist fascination; acting as a public park yet concealed from the street, the dramatic interior aims to re-stimulate the visitors’ senses, and to develop an intimate dialogue between the observer and the observed, where through the act of strolling and gazing, the visitors reach a state of transcendental isolation. After departure, the newly transformed flâneurs continue to wonder through the city with newly evoked curiosity, rediscover the extra-ordinary ordinarity of everyday life.

Impression of walking through Breton House, London

When the wonderer walks through the homogeneous façade of 20th century, the repeated elements are left to oblivion, what remains in the memory are the diverse windows, where the collage of fleeting images on the glass reassembles and forms the fictional reality unique to each observant.

Impression of a Typical Georgian House, London

The drawing captures the experience of walking pass a typical Georgian House in London, which cannot be frozen into one image, as the position of the observer changes, so does the image that the eye captures, and through the continuouse journey, each step creates a new snapshot of the house.

Paris has long history of its own distinct spectating relationships. From the 19th century flaneur strolling merely for observing, to the culture of window-shopping, and to the embellished parian lifestyle which is being watched and praised worldwide.

The site is located in the 11th arrodissment of Paris, in a residential area where most of the inhabitants are single adults,  the arronddissmont is one of the most densely populated area not just in Paris but in Europe. The site Sous Station Voltair was formally a electric substation, contributing to its industrial façade that uniquely stands out from the street of Haussmanian typology, and a lack of courtyard for residential use, it is a box that evokes curiosity but cannot be penetrated from the outside.

The project investigates the act of voyeurism, psychological state of observing without being known. The visitors enter a labyrinth, where the role between the observer and the observed are constantly shifting, everything is in constant motion and being observed, the subject, the object, and the surrounding space. Nothing is homogeneous; the uniqueness of the surrounding brings out the consciousness of the visitors. On the two sides of a threshold lie diverse realities, the observer peeks a limited insight through the frame but never an image of the whole.

There exists no absolute horizontal or vertical lines nor sharp corners, all the lines and conjunctions flows naturally but unpredictably. There exists no pre-assumptions in this space; the visitors are unable to presume the spaces that are yet undiscovered. Floors can be uneven, and turn into ramps and stairs that floats upward, thresholds are bridges that link different spaces divided by walls; the experiences of the visitors are determined by perceptions, through motion, the constant shift of perception and different visual extension make up the experience.

Experiences within the Modern Courtyard