Concrete arches overlook public square at Pôle Laherrère apartments

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A new development in Pau, France, designed by architecture studios CoBe and Paysage with design agency WEEK, features a series of playful concrete arches that overlook a public square. Known as Pôle Laherrère, the project is part of the urban renewal of Pau’s Saragossa district, which is characterized by large blocks of social housing from the 1960s. The new buildings replace a demolished hospice and provide social and student housing, offices, restaurants, and a police station. The development is centered around Laherrère Square, a popular public space known for its weekly markets.

To enliven the square, the Pôle Laherrère blocks have been split horizontally, featuring exposed concrete bases with fully-glazed arches on the lower levels and timber-clad upper storeys with awnings. The ground floors have been designed to encourage activity and interaction and feature a transparent base that showcases the diverse programming within.

Inspired by classical architecture, the arches create a sense of order and stability in the square, while also establishing a connection between the interior and exterior spaces. The eastern block incorporates housing, a multipurpose room, a cooking school, and a police station, while the western block houses offices for companies focusing on integration through employment.

The interior of the buildings is unified by a consistent material palette, with white walls, wooden ceilings, and shelving, and accents of yellow for elements such as splashbacks and awnings. The aim was to create a common expression for the different functions of the buildings, emphasizing bright and white spaces and natural materials like wood. Additionally, as a social residence project for students and low-income families, it was important to create apartments that instill a sense of comfort and security.

The Pôle Laherrère project has been longlisted in the mixed-use project category of the prestigious Dezeen Awards 2023. It joins other recent mixed-use social housing developments in France, such as a timber and hempcrete building in Paris by Barrault Pressacco, inspired by the city’s typical apartment blocks.

The stunning photography of the project is credited to Luc Boegly. The main architects of Pôle Laherrère are CoBe Architecture and Paysage, with WEEK serving as the partner architect. AIA is the main engineer, and Gamba is responsible for the acoustic engineering.

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