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Apartments by Atelier Fernandez & Serres, Banyuls-sue-Mer

Rippling pink concrete tendrils, reminiscent of mashrabiya, encase this residential block overlooking the waterfront at Banyuls-sur-Mer

Though the veiled box is a familiar architectural device, this version of it deploys an organically inspired mashrabiya confected from dusky pink concrete to enliven a basic residential block.The building is essentially a shoebox containing 74 apartments for students and researchers on short-term secondment at the Oceanographic Observatory at Banyuls-sur-Mer, a coastal resort in the eastern Pyrenees. The observatory is affiliated to the Université Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris, France’s largest specialist science university.

The programme also includes lounge spaces and a canteen for residents. Ground and first floors house these communal spaces with four decks of accommodation stacked above. Rooms are compact, in the manner of student halls, accessed by peripheral walkways that double as balcony spaces.

Site planFloor plan

Enveloped in its ornate concrete screen, the monolithic block overlooks the harbour, imparting a gently surreal air to the waterfront. Architects Fernandez & Serres describe it as ‘creating a subtle vibration within the town’.

Apart from a long glazed gash cut in the first floor to give the canteen views out over the sea, the facade is impressively hermetic and seamless. The rippling fronds of coral pink concrete recall the delicate, questing tendrils of sea anemones, an appropriate analogy since the building’s function concerns marine research.

The screen filters the intense Mediterranean light and its concrete tendrils cast rippling shadows along the external decks seductively animating the long walkways. Broken down into a series of panels, the facade was prefabricated on site using specially designed formwork.

As a decorated box, the building is effectively an astute one-liner. Nonetheless the jury admired the ambition to create a compelling piece of architecture out of a modest programme and applauded the imaginative and technical achievement of the facade.

Pink concrete tendrils glow against the Mediterranean skyPink concrete tendrils glow against the Mediterranean sky

web_2Appropriately, this apartment block for oceanographers borrows the colour and wriggling forms of coral


Architect: Atelier Fernandez & Serres
Photographer: Fernando Guerra


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