Dutch architecture firm MVRDV just completed a courtyard apartment building in Bordeaux, France that aims to help transform what city living can look and feel like. Set east of the River Garonne, across from the city’s UNESCO World Heritage historic center, Ilot Queyries is a living laboratory of sorts, testing out a new masterplan offering community, greenery, daylight, access to amenities, and a sense of intimacy that can be hard to come by in urban centers. The building includes 282 homes, including 128 for social housing, as well as commercial space, a rooftop restaurant, a large collective green space, and parking.
The development stands out even when viewed from afar. Its jagged white rooflines rise from the city streets in an organic-looking jumble, contrasting the neatly organized rows and rectilinear shapes of the buildings around it. In the center is a massive courtyard, all the facades facing it painted with textured red stucco. The building fills its building site all the way to the boundaries, and the roofs are designed with “carefully calibrated” slopes to maximize ventilation and sunlight to both the building itself and its neighbors.
The courtyard inside, developed in collaboration with local architecture firm Flint, is irregularly shaped and measures nearly 56,000 square feet. This park-like green space is actually one level above the street, positioned over the complex’s parking garage, making it feel like a secret garden that’s protected from but still connected to the larger urban context. Planted with 83 alder and birch trees and a variety of grasses, the courtyard opens to the streets through a few different portals.
Within the building, all the irregular slopes of the rooflines and exteriors create interesting, dynamic interior spaces, including apartment layouts that are entirely unique. That results in a wide array of home sizes and shapes, so occupants don’t feel like they’re living in cookie-cutter spaces. Some areas of the buildings are as low as one story, while on the side facing the river, some rise as high as nine. At its peak, the complex features a glass crown housing the restaurant with views of Bordeaux’s historic center.
MVRDV’s Bastide-Niel masterplan will ultimately include three additional developments, aiming to combine all the history Bordeaux has to offer with the density, ecology and comfort, of a modern metropolis. Once completed, this masterplan, developed in collaboration with Joubert Architecture, will see more than 86 acres of former barracks and rail yards converted to public spaces and cultural facilities.
“The COVID-19 pandemic showed everyone how valuable outdoor spaces close to their homes can be, and I hope Ilot Queyries can show that such amenities don’t require compromise,” says MVRDV founding partner Winy Maas. “The building creates close and intimate streets without ugly parked cars thanks to its ample car parking. At the same time every apartment is provided a balcony or loggia, while the green park space becomes a wonderful community amenity.”
“This project served as preparation for the grander plan of the Bastide_Niel development,” adds Maas. “With this project we were able to test some of our ideas, which resulted in a masterplan with more greenery in the streets, better cost optimization for façades, and more open courtyards.”