The Times called it "the most architecturally radical building built in the centre of Paris since I. M. Pei stuck a glass pyramid in the Louvre in the 1980s." the Docks project was first designed in 2004 for a competition. The building works started in 2007.
The project is a renovation of a concrete shipping depot originally built in 1907, which the architects chose to keep for the base of their new design. the architects are calling their design a 'plug-over' as the new structure is a new external skin that enveloped the existing site on the sides and on top. The river facing facade features a glass covered steel tube structure that is inspired by the flow of the river and its pedestrian promendades. The roof has also been developed using wooden decks and grassed areas. The front facade addition serves as the buildings circulation system allowing visitors to move between levels. Inside the new building will feature a variety of programming including galleries, retail shops, the french fashion institute, and cafes.
Les Docks de Paris is a long, narrow, old yet functional warehouse, with historical significance. Built around the turn of the last century, it served as a depot to store goods brought up the Seine by barge, to be transported onwards by road or by train.
The Parisian city authorities organized a contest for a new cultural development program to revitalize the site. It was left to the competitors' discretion whether or not to incorporate the existing concrete structure in their proposals. Jakob + Macfarlane, the Paris-based architects who won the competition, chose to incorporate and use the structure to give shape to the new project.
The existing building was constructed in 1907 as an industrial warehouse for the Port of Paris and was the first Parisian structure built with reinforced concrete. Made up of three levels, the building was designed as a series of four blocks, each comprising a frame structure of 10 mts and four grids of 7.5 mts. On the first level, which opens onto the Quai d'Austerlitz, these different-sized openings (of 10 mts and 7.5 mts) can be accessed from the street. These openings have a good height, of approximately 1.5 mts, which enabled transportation, handling, and delivery of goods.
Inspired by the flow of the Seine and that of riverside walkways going towards Seine Rive Gauche, the new Parisian district, the construction lends a new look to the industrial structure while retaining its concrete frame.
A light new skin made up of glass, called the "plug-over" will protect the existing concrete structure and the new facilities added on the rooftop. The idea was to create a new outer skin which would, at the same time, protect the existing concrete structure as well as create a new route to enable free movement of people to the various new destinations within the building. In particular, the rooftop would be made accessible to the public so that they could explore the facilities added by the "plug-over".
The structural system that supports this new skin is the result of a systematic distortion of the structural frame of the existing building. A branching method is used to create a new system from the existing system. The "plug-over" emerges from the concrete structure in the same way as a new branch shoots out of a tree. This skin is made up of glass, metal, and a roofscape comprising a wooden floor and several plants.
The "plug-over" not only exploits the building's exterior to the maximum, but also establishes a continuous public route that extends the public walkways from the waterfront level to the large rooftop terrace, and then down again, like a large loop, integrating the building with its surroundings. The pedestrian link between the 13e and the Seine are also established, linking the dock to the embankment road. The building, thus, becomes an integral part of the urban surroundings.
The building will host an interesting mix of destinations relating to similar themes: fashion and design. One can find a large exhibition space, the French Institute of Fashion (l'Institut Francais de la Mode - IFM), several shops, a bookstore, cafes and restaurants.
At night, special lighting will highlight the building and brighten up the evening skyline.