Building Retrofit


At Edge of Paris, a Housing Project Becomes a Beacon

Frédéric Druot
La Tour Bois-le-Prêtre A public housing project in Paris has been upgraded from a standard tower into a pleasing landmark, above, with sunny balconies. More Photos »

PARIS — Hard by the noisy highway, overlooking a cemetery and a former garbage dump, La Tour Bois-le-Prêtre glimmers on a spring morning. Sheathed in a fresh cloak of glass balconies and corrugated aluminum panels, it rises on the edge of this city amid a landscape of decaying cement-and-brick housing blocks.

    Druot, Lacaton & Vassal
    La Tour Bois-le-Prêtre, before its renovation. More Photos »

    This half-century-old tower used to be one of those blocks. Its makeover, by a creative team of local architects — Frédéric Druot, Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal — is a case study in architectural ingenuity and civic rejuvenation. It’s a challenge to urban innovators, too. Instead of replacing the old tower with an entirely new building, the designers saw what was worthwhile about the existing architecture and added to it.