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Living the informal neighborhood in banlieue : a bottom-up housing project in Bagnolet-Montreuil

Chiara Meneghin, Samanta Maria Lucrezia Tumbarello

Living the informal neighborhood in banlieue : a bottom-up housing project in Bagnolet-Montreuil.

Rel. Pierre Alain Croset, Irene Caltabiano, Cyril Ros. Politecnico di Torino, Corso di laurea magistrale in Architettura Costruzione Città, 2013

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All the conceived design ideas and the reflexions matured and developed in this thesis originate from a research born in March in a French studio directed by the professor Cyril Ros, in the Ecole National Supérieure d’Architecture de Pans Belleville. It was an exciting professional and personal experience. Firstly, we worked in teams with some students coming from Paris and Bangkok in order to look for everything that could be useful to analyze and understand all the particular features of the site. In this way, we had the possibility to go to the essence of places analyzing them by different points of view, sometimes more focused to the management of public spaces, sometimes more oriented to the sense of community and the relationship between public and private. We tried to deeply understand traditional features, landscape elements, complexities and identities of the territory.

The site of the project is included into two banlieues in the east of Paris which are Bagnolet and Montreuil. The area presents some complexities since it is on the one hand a detached suburb of Paris, with a specific relation with the city, and on the other hand a reality with specific local identities that need to be preserved. We considered the territory of Bagnolet- Montreuil both as a part of the city since they are linked for some economic, historical and geographical aspects, and as a specific territory as well, different from other banheues, whose characteristics have to be valued.

Starting from a larger scale focus i.e. two French banheues, towards a closer one i.e. the informal neighborhood, we will propose an analysis of the site and a future project. Above all, we will articulate a reflexion about the concept of “living” a neighborhood and the town, its facilities and infrastructures, its private and public spaces. The research deals with a complex network made of structured geographical elements, economic priorities, social links and cultural needs. Different elements made the area really interesting to study, since it was fascinating to analyze how situations that are so different and sometimes opposite to each other coexist. We are talking about the co-presence of both skyscrapers and traditional pavilions, informal neighborhood, social housing and inefficient utilities; heavy infrastructures and lack of connections and many other elements that made the complexity a treasure that finally became the urge for our project.

Later we will show our urban scenario. It was very important to us to examine the steps of the production of the city and actors involved in it with the goals to value, reinforce and design a model able to answer to different phenomena: gentrification, property speculation, outsourcing of activities and the indifference towards the poorest part of the population. We believe in the self- sustainable production of the city, in the value of the territory that is the value of the society and in a project that is socially grounded. We looked for a new relationship between inhabitants and makers, local and global, different scales of urban network. We developed a project that, at every scale, wants to emphasize the importance of the role of inhabitants in the process of building their homes, neighborhood and urban environment. We wanted to valorise a bottom-up approach which originates from local people’s needs, especially related to new housing possibilities and develops thanks to their active participation and the use of appropriate technologies and the promotion of self-help building.

Through this thesis, we want to paint our personal image of the town with the same malaise felt by Monet towards quick and uncontrolled evolution and construction of the city. The book cover shows, in fact, “Maisons a Argenteuil”, a painting realized by Claude Monet in 1673. The landscape painted is Argenteuil, a suburb of Paris with a deep historical tradition of agriculture which nevertheless was able to evolve and industrialize becoming a company town where commuters live. Monet was attracted by the predisposition of Argenteuil to modernity and he painted several perspectives of it. All these paintings reveal his predilection to show the moderate features of deserved prosperity and leisure rather than the metallic aspects of industrialization. The landscape appears to be clear and trim, nearly symmetric. The picture suggests a feeling of extension: the current landscape reveals future developments. The progress seems to be inexorable.

“Our town” wants to remain strongly tied with its roots and at the same time it shows the will to change and develop, moving with the evolving time. We deeply believe in the social role of the architect: he has all the abilities and tools to make “the town” real and the painting becomes the symbol of how innovation and tradition can coexist. The links between local traditions, current social dynamics and future developing perspectives are the ‘fil rouge’ of the project. We aspire to a urban and social development generated by people which are active and involved in the construction of the city where social cohesion and participation are the key words. We think about a city where living the neighborhood doesn’t mean only to reside in a specific place but to produce an important urban environment and a special social quality.

Relators: Pierre Alain Croset, Irene Caltabiano, Cyril Ros
Publication type: Printed
Subjects: A Architettura > AO Design
Corso di laurea: Corso di laurea magistrale in Architettura Costruzione Città
Classe di laurea: UNSPECIFIED
Aziende collaboratrici: École Nationale Supérieure d'Architecture de Paris-Belleville - Paris (France)
URI: http://webthesis.biblio.polito.it/id/eprint/3526




1. Meanings

2. Villages in 1891

3. Social geography of banheues

4. Between the two World Wars

5. Grands ensembles-, the promise of a healthy city

6. The gentrification phenomenon and Banheue ‘39

7. 2006 riots


1 . Geographical and climatic features

2. Historical evolution and urban transformations

3. Infrastructures

4. Landscape

5. Socio-economical features

6. Urban morphology and building typologies

7. Facilities


1 .Population growth: from the Petite Its he to nowadays

2. Collectivity interests: municipality acquisitions

3. Housing composition

4. Building models 5.Spaces and limits



I .Identity and memory

2. Design intentions

3.Strategy and tools

4. Phases of the project

5. Future scenarios


I .Self-help building

2. From urban scale to neighborhood scale

Urban Scale Drawings

3. Buildings in progress

4. Public vs private

Architectural Scale Drawings

5. Technological solutions





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