The French coastal town of Boulogne-sur-Mer is facing the final stretch of an innovative social housing project. An initiative through which an architecture Studio rehabilitates one of its most depressed areas with the active participation of its inhabitants. Architecture for living together.
Located near the English channel, at the top of this northern city, 60 small coloured houses experience an activity that aims to finish in six months since April 2010. These homes, which in their day were former residence of fishermen, now belong to low income or unemployed. “In 30 years, municipal social assistance agencies have not given a single euro and people felt abandoned,” says Sophie Ricard, 29 years old architect involved in this initiative.
The concept to define this form of rehabilitation by the Studio of Patrick Bouchain, famous for their projects of innovative cutting and social background, is “architectural permanence”. It consists of live with the community whose homes are renovated to integrate and create new lasting social ties.
Three years: one for the inhabitants, another to design and the third to make the reform
With a budget of 2.4 million euros (38,000 euros per dwelling), this three-year work has started: one to meet and listen to the inhabitants, one to design the project and the third to undertake reform. “We began building a large garden and a vegetable garden with the help of the children to get to know us,” explains Ricard. The young, soul of the initiative on the ground, goes beyond its role as architect and has become the epicenter of the community.
To include 250 inhabitants in the initiative, Ricard, has organized workshops so they chose the color of the facades and interior walls and took the occupants skills in plumbing or painting work. The remodeling is carried out with ecological materials and support local businesses. The director general of the Office of social housing from Boulogne, Philippe Charton, points as main architect to former Mayor and current State Secretary of transport, Frédéric Cuvillier.
A fleet of 6,000 units with reduced rent in a population of about 119,000 people, the Agency has frequently tested innovative projects, “but none” like this. Residents have even agreed to pay the increase in the price of rent, which in some cases has tripled.