Under a tight budget, an orphanage for teenagers was designed by Damien Brambilla. And it has actually become one of the most amazing things to see in Paris. Brambilla found in this group home that the bureaucracy was heavy, the room to design was something radical, more or less, non-existent.
But where others would see a headache, Brambilla, a Paris-based architect, saw an opportunity to change what this type of building can mean to its occupants — in this case, a dozen adolescents under the care of the city government. Brambilla explains that he wanted them to feel at home. See below the results.
The designer took a derelict apartment building with an overgrown garden in the Belleville section of northeastern Paris, gutted it to the foundation, and added an extension that doubled the original square footage.
On the street side, he restored the typically Parisian façade, but indoors it’s a different world, all glass, lacquered metal, and sleek wood. Brambilla’s reference point was not French — much less Parisian — but rather Californian: the revolutionary midcentury Case Study Houses, which emphasized structural lightness and a breezy continuity between indoors and out.
At 250 square feet, the shared bedrooms are smart and airy, despite their small size. A true design challenge.
Brambilla tried to create spaces that would encourage common living: from a long kitchen bar, where residents can eat and socialize, to a covered terrace and a peaceful garden, filled with shade-loving varietals that bloom year-round.
In drawing up the plans, the architect consciously included a safe outdoor space as an antidote to the potentially claustrophobic dormitory rooms.
More than creating a welcoming space, a sound place where these teens can feel at home, Brambilla gave it a fresh look, with California style. It’s appealing, sophisticated and stylish.