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Project timeline

1928 – 1931



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25 avenue de Versailles
75016 Paris

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25 avenue de Versailles Change this

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Jean Ginsberg and Bertold Lubetkin first met as students in Warsaw and later attended the Ecole Spéciale together in Paris. Lubetkin in 1925 where he attended several different institutions. Ginsberg's father was an engineer in Paris who was interested in acquiring some property and so the two young architects, barely out of school, found themselves with the commission for a small apartment building. The site in the 16th arrondisement was already established as an area of modern buildings that included works by Le Corbusier, Mallet-Stevens, Henri Sauvage, and others. Auteuil was a popular area for the fashionable set seeking an alternative to the typical Paris apartment. During this time in Paris ateliers d'artistes had become a popular type of dwelling for young Parisians and the Avenue de Versailles flats were completely let out before the building was finished.

The site was a very small infill parcel lodged between adjacent buildings with a tiny courtyard in the rear. The 9 story height steps back at the top on both front and rear in response to the zoning restrictions. The plan idea is an unequal "ell" that fronts the street, with the small bay extending to the rear of the site leaving a square courtyard. A two bedroom flat faces the street and a small one-room studio faces the courtyard. A stair and two elevators are packed into the inside corner of the "ell". Baths and kitchens are in a zone fronting the rear court. Living and dining spaces share a small balcony overlooking the street. The unequal bays are expressed on the façade by the location of a freestanding column that appears in the recessed entry and at each balcony. A set of detailed design elements further enrich the balcony; the curving glass wall of the Living room, the re-entry corner of the dining room, and the coping on the balustrade that cantilevers out a few inches. The building is recessed along the sidewalk to make and entry space. A planter along sidewalk provides some privacy to the concierge apartment. A cylindrical form here helps define the entrance and reappears as an element of the roof terraces. The sundeck on two levels at the top has a shower and bath and great views east of the Seine and Eiffel Tower. The cornice at the 7th floor projects out to align with the adjacent building.

The facades are a reflection of the plan organization with recessed zone of the balconies providing a central vertical emphasis. The zoning envelope is expressed in a very controlled manner: 6 floors of repetitive flats contained by the special ground floor elements and the exuberant sculptural development of the top two floors. The plastic development of the central zone in the façade composition is a critical improvement on the typical strip windows of most modernist facades because of the exceptional detail of the balcony area; the free-standing column, the curved class of the living room corner, the re-entry corner of the dining room window, and the trace of the parapet coping that projects out a few inches. The strip window which, along with the bronze entry doors, was fabricated in Germany, are one of several very innovative features of the building. The wider horizontal glazing bar is actually the overlapped frames of separate window elements that pull apart and slide down into a pocket built into the spandrel. A bronze lid hinges down over the sill to cover the opening of the pocket. In this way the window frames could be made to completely disappear. Other design innovations include the use of rolled steel door frames, the positioning of service risers in the hallway for easy access, the use of marble chips in the stucco to make a very hard durable finish, the floors which were finished with a monolithic magnesium compound, and the elaborate railings of the sundeck. One of the most innovative features was the detail for lighting the stair hall by borrowing light from an adjacent service elevator that is glazed with glass block the full height of the courtyard.

25 Avenue de Versailles was the first and only commission Ginsberg and Lubetkin did together. Ginzberg continued to design exclusive small apartments on nearby sites including a building across the street at 45 Avenue de Versailles, built in 1934 on a corner site, and another infill site on Avenue Vion-Witcomb also in the 16th arrondisement. Lubetkin moved to London in 1931 where he formed the Tecton partnership and, between 1935 and 1938 built the Highpoint I & Highpoint II apartments, examples of early modernist housing in London.


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