The edifice you see above is La Grande Arche de la Défense in the business district of Paris, France. The product of a design competition in 1982 (and completed in 1989), this 361-foot tall nearly perfect cube is the home of government offices on two sides. The roof housed an exhibition center until an elevator accident in 2010, following which the area was closed to the public.
Architect Stéphane Malka, as a response to concerns of urban overcrowding, has come up with a design to retrofit La Grande Arche into an area that would hold 450 388-square-foot prefabricated apartments. It would look something like this:
The apartments would rest inside the hollow area of the arch. Residents would access the apartments via the same elevators that service the office areas. The apartments themselves would be modular, made of steel, glass and wood that has been stripped from other buildings. They would be mounted off-center onto the arch via mortise-and-tenon joints.
The problem of overcrowding in cities is pushing architects around the world to seek radical solutions like this one in the La Grande Arche. Estimates are that by 2030, 5 billion people will live in cities; in 2010, that number stood at 3.3 billion. Many city planners and architects are turning to technological advances in modular housing design—a concept that has been around in various permutations since the 1950s, when Japanese architect Makoto Masuzawa created the 538-square-foot Minimum House – to address the problem.
These apartments in the Arche look a little unwieldy to me, even though I’m sure they’re not – probably because the modular components appear to hang in mid-air instead of being slid inside a structure (the way that certain hotels and cruise ships are assembled). I can imagine these things rocking back and forth in a strong wind . . . but, I’d take an address in the penthouse of this place: