OMA rework a brutalist Paris warehouse
See how Rem Koolhaas has helped turn Entrepôt Macdonald into a welcoming urban environment
The longest building in Paris, a 617m-long warehouse to the north of the city, has undergone a major transformation courtesy of 15 architecture firms. Rem Koolhaas’s OMA created a masterplan to turn Entrepôt Macdonald, or the Macdonald Warehouse, into housing, a crèche, primary and secondary school, ground floor shops, offices and an incubator for start-ups. This huge concrete building, described as the city’s longest, was built on the Macdonald Boulevard, by the French architect Marcel Forest in 1970. It was home to the capital’s car pound and mail sorting centre until six years ago, and has a working tramline running through it.
The OMA team then acted as ring-master to a circus troupe of mostly big-name French and international architects, including Kengo Kuma, who handled the secondary school and gym; Odile Decq; Christian de Portzamparc; Julien de Smedt; Gigon/Guyer; François Leclerc and Marc Mimram, designers of the office block; and l'AUC – Djamel Klouche, who created the student accommodation.
Each firm was given a vertical slice of Forest’s structure. This was a business decision rather than an aesthetic one, as individual units had been allotted to different property developers.
A few extra storeys had to be added, in order to fit in the new services and amenities, and the architects were positively encouraged to play with the exterior, and pretty much everyone took up the challenge.
The south-facing side is now a glorious – overwhelming at times – hotchpotch of differing treatments, themes, colours and textures. This mélange is on view from the new train station and the future public garden.
Anyone who prefers a monolithic approach, the north side, which looks towards the ring road and suburbs, has Forest’s original bland exterior pretty much intact.
For greater insight into contemporary architecture on a slightly smaller scale, take a look at our book Nanotecture, dedicated to tiny built things; for more on our changing urban environment consider Living in the Endless City; and for more on beautiful, old Brutal buildings order a copy of This Brutal World.