Live at the office, work at home: new formulas break the rules

The Parisian agency PetitDidierPrioux designed the Millenium residential complex for Belval, where different forms of housing and offices or workshops share the same space. A conversation with an architect who has sensed that working from home and new forms of flexible working can lead to a sustainable trend.

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With his colleague Vincent Prioux, from the Parisian agency PetitDidierPrioux, Cédric Petitdidier designed the Millenium residential complex for Belval, where different forms of housing, offices and workshops share the same space. A conversation with an architect who has sensed that working from home and different forms of flexible working can lead to a sustainable trend.

The Millenium residential complex developed in Belval by the Luxembourg developer Tralux is based on a provision of 104 apartments. A large number of housing formulas have been put forward in this wide range of proposals. This was AGORA’s initial choice, when it launched the call for submission of projects for marketing the first plots of the Central Square quarter. The specifications drawn up by the development company did indeed invite architects to look at new trends in urban living and to take up the challenge to submit original and feasible concepts. The response provided by the PetitDidierPrioux team was very attractive. Based on a reinterpretation of the division between professional and private life, it wants to offer a “natural continuity” between these two aspects of our lives. It also proposes to develop a formula that opens the building’s services to outsiders. Residents, customers, neighbours, visitors, Millenium wants to become a fully-fledged player in the heart of the city.

Hybridisation, innovation, flexibility, terms taken on by the two architects as a “manifesto”. Cédric Petitdidier and Vincent Prioux cannot hide their pride in having crystallised in the Millenium project most of the ambitions of their agency founded 15 years ago. Their main objective: to promote solutions that combine the individual and the collective. “In a world where people aspire to comfortable individual housing, it is vital to also think about developing collective housing formulas as a response to environmental but also social concerns – in this case work, collaboration and interaction”

New experiences for new practices

The ambition is clear, there is no lack of examples. Some have original names for concepts that are just as original.

“From the outset, Belval appeared to us as a very well-structured quarter, where we anticipated a teeming urban social life, explains Cédric Petitdidier. What we wanted to do was to avoid the risk of a break between the different functions of the quarter. On the one hand, there are work spaces that are only occupied during the day and deserted at night, and on the other hand, public and festive spaces that are more active at night than during the day. It is from this hypothesis that we have imagined a building acting as a social machine: a unique place where housing, office spaces and socialisation spaces share the same space.”

The concept of “working from home” soon appeared. On the street front, the space serves as an open office or a craftsman’s workshop, or a shop with large bay windows which give a sense of clarity and openness. At the back, there is an apartment overlooking the garden. Where required, the whole thing is entirely modular. It allows people to create a larger or smaller office or adapt their living space.

The apartments on the upper floors, whether duplexes or single-level units, similarly accommodate the activities of employees who have been converted to working from home by the pandemic. “We designed Millenium before the Covid-19 crisis, but we have known for a long time that a habitat designed for housing functions alone no longer corresponds to today’s lifestyles,” emphasises Cédric Petitdidier.

Each of these bright and spacious apartments will be able to accommodate working from home. But the architects vision embraces a more social idea of office work, inviting Millenium’s residents to take their laptops onto the roof, which is fitted out as a coworking-style café and open to the general public. The “coffice”, which will be able to host small events, is conceived as a social place that can generate income, but also as an ecological market garden space, where light meals can be cooked with the vegetables that grow in the adjacent vegetable garden.

In the project, on the different floors, the architects have also imagined “floor lounges” dedicated to various functions, useful for all inhabitants. Gym, craft room, daycare, spa. Outside, green spaces and relaxation areas are proposed. “For us, Millenium meets this vision of a building that values shared spaces and where, within the walls, the atmosphere of a good neighbourhood is recreated.”

Attached to the notion of “benevolent” architecture, where gentleness and good neighbourliness are cultivated, Vincent Prioux and Cédric Petitdidier wanted to make Millenium a project symbolic of this spirit, a building which, while preserving the independence and privacy of its inhabitants, favours interactions between neighbours, the lively cohabitation with visitors or customers who frequent the quarter.

A way forward, an example to follow!

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