Featuring metal-clad inner and outer facades, this student housing complex for the Olympe de Gouges University in Toulouse, France, was designed by a team comprising lead firm PPA Architectures, with support from Scalene Architectes and Almudever Fabrique d’Architecture. “The project works at three scales: the campus, the buildings, and the lodging,” the architects pointed out. “Its ambition is to create an active and welcoming place to live, where each resident can appropriate their own space.”
Two groups of buildings free up a park, which addresses the neighbourhood and encompasses the various student residences (1,000 lodgings in all). In the lee of the hill and extending out from the large central meadow, a communal living building houses rooms for student organizations. These facilities provide a structure for student activity and social life, nurturing conditions for an active, community campus.
The new buildings are suspended above the ground to facilitate the communal use of the campus. Each building wraps around a central garden with broad walkways (a vertical extension to the campus). Generous and welcoming, they provide access to and extend the private space of the individual lodgings.
The restrained architecture of the project deliberately leaves space for individual appropriation by developing potential spaces. To the ancient, cloister-like arrangement of the volumes, replies the abstraction of the panels, which serve both as shutters and as cladding to the facade. Their dimensions rhythm the entire project, changing the perception of scale and diluting the beehive effect that might otherwise arise in the repetitive stacking of 615 lodgings. Always changing, this outer skin reacts as much to the reflections of its surroundings, as to the habits of its occupants.
The lodging (16 m2) is a standard space that has not been overprescribed (neither cell, nor miniature apartment) so as to remain freely appropriable by its occupant. It is furnished so as to enable the reorganization for individual use and lifestyles while freeing up living space.