For the first ground-up house by Paris firm Jakob + Macfarlane, the mandate was both clear and wildly open: create something “avant-garde, surprising and poetic, which will stand out from its conservative neighbours.” It is the ultimate client brief, and the owners of the Connected House got exactly what they asked for.
Situated in the leafy municipality of Boulogne-Billancourt, just beyond the western boundary of Paris, the sharply angled home of white enamelled metal and glass evokes a machine but takes its cues from the trees that surround it. The service core acts as the trunk; a tubular steel skeleton branches out to support the floors; and the faceted outer skin of enamelled aluminum panels takes the place of foliage.
Dominique Jakob and Brendan Macfarlane designed the house for a young professional couple who admired their work, especially the FRAC Centre for contemporary arts in Orléans and the City of Fashion and Design on the Left Bank of the Seine River. “They knew that Boulogne-Billancourt was a crucible of modernism in the 1920s and ’30s – Le Corbusier’s apartment-atelier, Immeuble Porte Molitor, is just a block away – and they wanted to add to that legacy,” recalls Macfarlane.
The couple also wanted to grow old in this new creation. They had already begun demolishing the house that formerly occupied the site but decided to keep the chauffeur’s cottage (located a few metres away) for their children when they were grown and for guests.
The architects could not exceed the height and mass of the old house, but were able to accommodate four floors plus a basement lap pool, as well as a rooftop terrace overlooking the city and the Bois de Boulogne. The fractured geometry of the facades – a hallmark of the architects’ work – is echoed by the angled concrete pavers that extend into the landscape and double as parking for the family’s electric cars.
“We made multiple models that could be taken apart and played with,” explains Macfarlane. “The clients got it from the start, and the house is full of light and views coming in at different angles.”
Besides the pool, which extends beyond the floor plan and is naturally lit by glass skylights set amid the pavers, the basement also contains a screening room, a gymnasium and a wine cellar, plus service and mechanical areas. This frees up the rest of the 800-square-metre house for living areas: a kitchen and dining room on the ground floor, a double-height living room and terrace for entertaining on the second level, a pair of offices on the mezzanine above, and the family’s bedrooms on the top floor. An elevator links the five indoor levels.
Macfarlane says he was encouraged by the support he received from other architects and from the members of the municipal design review committee, who wanted to know exactly how the house worked so that they could defend the project when neighbours raised objections, as usually happens with anything out of the ordinary. The mayor was eager that Boulogne-Billancourt continue to welcome experimental architecture. “We are creating tomorrow’s history,” he declared.
The Connected House
Jakob + Macfarlane, Paris
800 sq. m
977 sq. m
Alucobond, glass, poured-in place concrete
Concrete and French oak flooring, Stuv fireplace