Reinventing Paris II. An integrated centre for the disabled and the able-bodied was being planned as part of a design competition launched by the City of Paris to find innovative urban projects. It was to provide flexible-use sports, events and office space and barrier-free cafés, restaurants and hotels. In short, a universal place for all.
The Cité Universelle represents the first time that the principles of inclusive, barrier-free access or “design for all” have been put into practice on such a grand scale in France.
A collaboration with INEDIT Architecture produced a flagship building in its field. Nine storeys high, it comprises a sports hall, health facilities, office space and a hotel. And the entire building, occupying some 30,000m2 on the Square de la Marseillaise, is fully accessible to the disabled and the able-bodied alike. With its striking shape and external ramps, it provides an unmistakable landmark in the wider urban setting.
Subtle play of the curved forms
The shape of this miniature city with its rounded corners stands as a symbol of both urban and social integration. The Cité Universelle makes an architectural statement, exudes energy and is open to its surroundings at ground level. It is with the exterior ramps, however, creating both outdoor space and an unmistakeable landmark in the wider urban setting, that the building really takes off.
The architecture of the Cité Universelle expresses movement. A circular walkway winds up and around the building like a burgeoning spiral, providing a link to the public space.
The Cité Universelle’s all-encompassing nature is also reflected in its high levels of modularity. Designed on the principles of the “plan libre” and rooted in compactness, flexibility and openness, this reversible building offers scope for future development. At its heart, the modular sports hall, for example, hosts a broad range of events, while the co-working space provides flexibly office space. This wide variety of uses is integral to the building.
Planting – a living, breathing element
Alongside barrier-free access, the Cité Universelle offers a host of innovative features from a focus on sustainability in an urban setting to its model of inclusive use. The building more than meets the ecological and environmental protection targets set out in the City of Paris’s climate protection plan. Considerable space is given over to greening with varied planting in its garden areas, on balconies and roof terraces and in the eco kitchen garden (whose produce goes straight to the on-site restaurant). Here, too, integration is a vital aspect: the integration of sustainability, utility, sensuality and wellbeing – for all.