Connections 2.0

At Boulogne-Billancourt, a city to the southwest of Paris, a single-family house explores an eco-green philosophy that updates the dialogue with the history of illustrious neighbors through the metaphor of the tree


Project Jakob+MacFarlane, Dominique Jakob, Brendan MacFarlane
photos Roland Halbe – article Antonella Boisi


We continue to watch them, and the surprises keep on coming. From the days of FRAC Orleans (2013) and the Cité de la mode et du design in Paris (2009), Jakob + MacFarlane, Parisian architects known for the creation of organic forms, have explored a creative approach that mingles with the digital world.

In the field of research applied to private residences, they again have an unusual vision, as seen in the design of the single-family house shown on these pages, recently completed in a western suburb of Paris and inspired by its setting of forest.

A work of architecture with an abstract tone, like a monolithic piece of Land Art, playing with the dimensions of space and time to generate an exclusive approach to dwelling inside the dynamic horizons of the 21st century.

Based on the idea of an archetypal tree structure, the house – with an area of 750 square meters – is like a futuristic sculptural object, thriving on fluid, unified spaces and continuity between daytime, nighttime and outdoor areas.

With the ‘roots’ well fastened in the ground, the ‘branches’ extending towards the sky and the light, the ‘rings of the trunk’ configuring the central nucleus of connections and vertical circulation, the construction is organized on five levels, from the basement (with a spectacular swimming pool) to the upper terrace.

“Designing this house,” Jakob + MacFarlane say, “has given us a way of conveying the idea that making architecture does not only mean problem solving: it is something more. Its dimension goes beyond representation on a stage of the desires and dreams of a client.

Every work belongs to its historical moment and has a life span, hopefully as long as possible in time. So here the metaphor of the tree meets the programmatic requirements of a more demanding way of life, in terms of an eco-green philosophy in the connection on multiple levels.

The use of ground water for heating and energy, with a technological heat pump system, for example, makes it possible to capitalize on the principle of geothermics, leading to remarkable savings and reduction of harmful emissions.

At the same time, we have challenged the concept of the smart building, through a link to the urban grid and to systems of home automation. A way to approach the practice of complexity on a concrete level.”

Furthermore: “Every change requires time to be absorbed, and today we are going through a period of global responsibility regarding many themes. The priorities are related to the safeguarding of the planet, connected to respect for available resources.

The challenge for an architect is to be useful and pertinent, without ever avoiding the duty of creating new proposals, also in terms of linguistic expression, and without ever forgetting about the legacy and history of a place, environmental geography, of a community. Above all when the parameter of reference, as in this case, is a strong context.”

The house-tree, approached with urban sensibilities, can become a new center of attraction, a remarkable channel for visual perception, inside and outside the building.