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Maison L – A house as a small town

Architect Christian Pottgiesser of the Paris-based firm Architectures Possibles is the genius behind Maison L, an almost 9400-sq. ft. A home that extends from its environment and feels like a small village.

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© George Dupin

  • The accessible flat roof of the one-story general living space, five tower-like volumes have been built—providing each member of the family with a private realm.
  • Each ‘tower’ is a self-contained space, complete with a storage space (ground floor), a dressing room, a bathroom and a bedroom (second floor).
  • Blurring the boundaries between the outdoors and indoors, the curved, winding terrain of the surrounding grounds serves to “distort and blend the construction into nature”.
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© George Dupin

The L-shaped general plan and the use of an indigenous stone for retaining walls. But it did not suggest half burying a series of interconnecting cave-like rooms, nor the five three-storey board-marked concrete towers that poke out of the rockery roof. This is where the genius of the architect comes in. This is masterful house-making by an ingenious architect who has brought a little bit of San Gimignano to this corner of the Ile de France.

In the corner of an undulating site of a former chateau, close to Versailles, is a heavily restored orangery whose origins can be traced back to the late 18th Century. This was home to a couple with four children. The couple called in the German born, French trained architect Christian Pottgiesser to extend it. The difficult brief called for an extension which impacted as little as possible on views from the orangery and on the mature landscape in which it is set. This suggested the L-shaped general plan and the use of an indigenous stone for retaining walls. But it did not suggest half-burying a series of interconnecting cave-like rooms nor the five three storey board marked concrete towers that poke out of the rockery-roof. This is where the genius of the architect comes in.

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© George Dupin

The local building code sets an 8 metre height limit (The Orangery is 7), so the architect has buried two metres of the linking building under the sloping site, allowing light in on the leading edge but meaning most of that accommodation does not count within the 8. The code also calls for a gabled or hipped roof but it does allow, in exceptional cases, flat roofs as long as they do not exceed 25 square metres each (clearly they were thinking garage). Thus five three-storeyed tower-like structures were designed, one room per floor with the circulation winding up through them providing dressing/storage, bathroom and bedroom. And by stealing a little off each of the young people’s towers the architects have made a somewhat grander (though still tiny) tower for the parents and planted a roof terrace on top from which there are great views not only of the garden and the district but of “La Défense”, the business district of the modern Paris with its own grown-up skyscrapers.

This is masterful house-making by an ingenious architect who saw the opportunities presented by the most unpromising of briefs and brought a little bit of San Gimignano to this corner of the Ile de France and made an originally sceptical client and his family more than happy.

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© George Dupin


The history of this house looks like a long ripening, those who give the wines. In 2004, its owners planning to expand decide to call Christian Pottgiesser found in a publication. Like many private sponsors, they have in mind specific ideas. For their family of four children, they want to add to the home they already live – probably the former orangery of the castle eighteenth century – a high extension and one piece savvy western boundary of the plot for hide the view of the neighboring property of their garden. Six years later and a dozen projects proposed, studied, modified, the house was completed this summer and the garden is under development. Result of a patient maieutics, the program took shape through an iterative process of lengthy discussions between client and architect, held in addition to compliance with local constraints: three perimeters of Historic Monuments, the obligation of a gable roof, Conservation of a network of sewage lift bisecting the garden. Of trial and error experimentation, drawing in new desires, the desire to take advantage of areas for the whole family and private apartments for individual members eventually imposed. Where the final proposal both clear and surprising: a powerful base from which emerge all five small towers erected a totem, one for each, including children and parents, or to go into detail: a ground road connected to small west side of the old building developed as amoeba, architect smiling evokes “a soft form >> on almost 47 meters long and more or less 15 meters deep – which envelope the image of river rocks, nearly 8 feet high based on three towers, and dessert just two outlying periphery.

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© George Dupin

From the outside, the whole does not really equivalent, although reminiscent of images ltaIie, Lucca and San Gimignano. The base is designed as a rock ensures a smooth transition with the old. The dry stone walls (called Cadaques) paired beautifully with a Portuguese company are pierced with large doors Full height steel frame rust.

The roof, fifth façade very neat, accessible by small hills on the west side is planted with evergreen species and secured not by railings, but an abundance of bamboo trunks stuck in the dark ocher which arise the follies.

Their walls are to be honest, admirable: the rough concrete, carefully tested blend of white cement and aggregates gray, cased with pine boards nailed different widths (7.5, 12.5, 15, 17.5, 20, 22.5 cm), with traces of joints preserved, sort of native material.

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© George Dupin

A maneuver, the company mentioned above. Its involvement is at the heart of the dignity of the architecture whose belly is still taking is best to enter through the door window cut in the gable of the old house. Then develops without breaking a hairline space that is revealed in sequences. If one eye warned mark almost immediately, it takes a few minutes to the one who is less likely to detect the strange dynamic that drives physically. Concrete floor and ceiling is slightly sloping away or approach each other, separated by 2, 18 m to 4.50 depending on the route, the call is routed to enhanced by curved walls – concrete just left rough textured or painted gray / gold, carmine, pink or white that seem ubiquitous as they represent only 5% of the vertical walls. Gradually, they lead to foot towers overhung narrow windows. Each developing a similar program: dressing the ground floor, bathroom Upstairs bedroom upstairs, and a terrace above for only parents who take advantage of surfaces more than their children (about 63m2 besides their terrace, contre 38,8m2).

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© George Dupin

Independence Family:

These ways of dungeons have no doors, only one entrance incorporating dressing the stairs. Access to the tower parents differs. Must be mounted on a sort of podium five steps-still-raw concrete devoid of the last cons walking, household vacuum backlit marking briefly breaking spaces between semi-public and private, a recurring theme in the work the architect (Galvani house in Paris).

Everyone is home and then climbs floors. The staircase wedged in the periphery and the bathroom are pierced by small windows offering views chosen: the bare listed facades, like their oak jambs. In the bedroom, the vast bay divided into three sections (including a tilt-turn) opens a large eye on the landscape. Each piece (about 8 m2 each) is a small world in itself as the architect knows so well invent – especially the bathroom parents carpentered metal with its central bathtub embedded in the ground. Everywhere a blend of simplicity and sophistication for both materials used for the scale, based on the body and bright atmosphere, in extreme attention to spatial sequences. These are never as striking as the return on the ground floor, with some great furniture reveal the extent wrap and flow continued in the garden paths traced in long concrete pools ashen.

From there, articulation and dynamic positioning towers obvious as their flat roofs. PLU imposed the saddle, unless less than 25 m2. Constraint circumvented by simple and elegant solution.

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© George Dupin

christian pottgiesser architecturespossibles:

Less than half an hour’s drive west from Paris city center, designed as an extension of a private residence to an 18th-century structure, sought to provide every family member with a private realm. The roughly 5000 m2 plot of old trees called for a project that would leave the spacious ground predominantly untouched.

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© George Dupin

Local building regulations only allow one single building with a gabled or hipped roof. However, in exceptional cases, flat roofs, as long as they do not exceed 25m2 each (e.g. : garages), can be provided. Thus, projecting above the accessible planted roof five tower-like volumes have been argued and actually implemented. Positioned to frame a specific perspective of the site, each « tower » houses a dressing room and storage space (ground floor), bathroom (1st floor) and a bedroom (2nd floor).

The design foresaw an amorphous plinth storey with curved stone walls heaped up with earth and used as a general living area. It emerges a completely “superfluous” space without any specific functional qualities. As if a toothpaste tube-like device could absorb all programmatic, psychological and urban design requirements. Here, most various and adoptable uses become imaginable and consequently possible – a superfluousness revealing necessary.

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© George Dupin

House and landscape are intimately interwoven, boundaries between indoors and outdoors are blurred. The south-eastern facade emerges out of a complex topography between the house and its landscape. Carved towards every entrance in the glazing the river-bed-shaped, undulating terrain distorts, blending the construction into nature.

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© George Dupin

Project Data:

Project name: Maison L
Location: Yvelines, France

  • Type By Characteristic: Contemporary House, Tower House
  • Type By Site: Countryside / Suburb House, Hill House
  • Type By Size: Large House – (more than 650 sqm)
  • Type By Materials: Concrete House

Project Area:

  • House area: 926 sqm
  • Gross internal area: 616 sqm
  • Garden: 4,850 sqm

Project Year: 2004-2011, implementation 2007-2011
Status: Built
Completion Year: August 2011


  • 2013 – Mies van der Rohe Awards – Nominated
  • 2012 – Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Awards – RIBA special awards – Manser Medal – Winner
  • 2012 – Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Awards – European Union – Winner

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer: Private
Architects: christian pottgiesser architecturespossibles – 8 rue du pré aux clercs, 75007 Paris, France
Project Team: Christian Pottgiesser, Pascale Thomas Pottgiesser
Structural Engineer: Joel Betito
Contractor: Les Constructeurs de Suresnes
Carpenter: Reinhardt S.A.
Iron work: Serrurerie Prestige Glazing, Metal facade
Wood, glazing: Chaput S.A.
Landscape trade: Bruns Pflanzen
Landscape implementation: La Générale des Aménagements
Floor, walls, sanitary installations: Les Constructeurs de Suresnes
Lighting: CPAP Design
Text Description: © Courtesy of christian pottgiesser architecturespossibles, RIBA
Images: © christian pottgiesser architecturespossibles, George Dupin

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