Architecture

ILOW, Carlo Ratti redesigns the social encounters in Paris

March 16, 2021
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ILOW, Carlo Ratti redesigns the social encounters in Paris

 

Recently, CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati and Bouygues Immobilier have unveiled the design of ILOW, a new building in Paris that aims to act as a bridge between La Défense, the French capital’s financial powerhouse, and the nearby Tours Nuages (Cloud Towers), one of the most iconic social housing projects of the postwar era.

© Carlo Ratti Associati

The building, designed in collaboration with Agence d’Architecture Willerval et Associés, is shaped like two open arms connecting two different socio-economic neighborhoods and it leverages parametric design to generate a facade that reinterprets the Tours Nuages, the mimetic, soft-shaped “Cloud Towers” designed by architect Émile Aillaud between 1973 and 1981 as a pioneering social housing experiment.

© Carlo Ratti Associati

CRA’s design aims to bring together two adjacent neighborhoods that have long been socially separated from each other: the building is structured around two wings – like two open arms – with a central green courtyard unfolding between them, connecting ILOW with the neighboring public park, and the design provides 12,500 square meters of mixed-function spaces, including offices, a restaurant, and a café.

© Carlo Ratti Associati

The ground floor is transparent and open to the public, promoting the mixing of different communities, while the top of the building features a roof garden: in short, ILOW strives to create a physical “common ground” that extends on different levels while creating visual connections with the surrounding areas.

© Carlo Ratti Associati

In order to develop a contemporary “atmospheric architecture”, the building’s curvaceous façade presents prefabricated modules of various sizes are arranged to create a curved surface designed to follow the sun’s trajectory, guaranteeing the optimum lighting conditions indoors while reducing energy consumption.

© Carlo Ratti Associati

Carlo Ratti, founding partner of CRA and director of the Senseable City Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, explains:

“We are trying to use design promote social encounters – between different people, cultures and social groups. This is what is unique about physical — as opposed to digital — space, something which the pandemic made us all too aware of. We can use architecture to bridge across different social worlds.”