The Docks of Paris is a long, thin building built in concrete at the turn of the last century. It was a depot for goods brought up the Seine by barge, which were deposited, and then transferred to dray or train.
The city of Paris launched a competition to create a new cultural program and building on this site. Whether or not to keep the existing concrete structure was a choice left to the participants.
Jakob+MacFarlane opted to retain the existing structure and use it to form and influence the new project.
The existing structure was built in 1907 as an industrial warehouse facility for the Port of Paris and was the first reinforced concrete building in Paris. The 3 story structure was conceived as a series of 4 pavilions, each with one 10m wide bay and four 7.5m wide bays. On the level corresponding to the Quai Austerlitz, the 10m bay is accessible from the street with the other bays roughly 1.25m higher, facilitating the storing and loading of materials for transport.
The concept of the new project is known as a ‘Plug-Over’. Here, the idea was to create a new external skin that is inspired primarily by the flux of the Seine and the promenades along the sides of the river banks. The skin both protects the existing structure and forms a new layer containing most of the public circulation systems and added program, as well as creating a new top floor to the existing building.
The new structural system supporting this skin is the result of a systematic deformation of the existing conceptual grid of the docks building. An arborescent generating method is used to create a new system from the existing system, that is, ‘growing’ the new building from the old as new branches grow on a tree.
This skin is created principally from a glass exterior skin, steel structure, wood decking and grassed, faceted roofscape.
The ‘Plug-Over’ operates not only as a way of exploiting the maximum building envelope but enables a continuous public path to move up through the building from the lowest level alongside the Seine to the roof deck and back down, a kind of continuous loop enabling the building to become part of the urban condition.
The programme is a rich mix centred on the themes of design and fashion, including exhibition spaces, the French Fashion Institute (IFM), music producers, bookshops, cafes, and a restaurant.