The 44 homes in this market town in the centre of France are in two identical blocks each five storeys high, facing each other across a courtyard. two-storey maisonettes sandwich single-storey flats, and those on the lowest floors have private gardens. This is definitely lightweight construction, and Dubosc dismisses the current love affair with incorporating thermal mass in buildings. Instead, he believes that having a lightweight rapidly responsive building is a better solution, as it can be heated rapidly when necessary.

Dubosc’s main interest was in building with readily available materials, which were both inexpensive and swift to construct. This led to his selection of a simple steel frame, cantilevering beyond the front face of the building, and with just the base of the columns set into cylinders of concrete, to protect against accidental impact.

The fronts of the buildings are clad in stainless steel, and the rears and roofs in profiled aluminium, with a slight pattern applied to them. The curvature of the roof allows the use of skylights on the upper maisonettes, adding additional quality to the simple interior spaces.

For the architect and the product manufacturers with which it collaborated, this was an interesting exercise in achieving architectural quality through an industrialised approach with relatively inexpensive components. It was also a research project, examining whether it was possible to achieve what were then new acoustic standards for France using lightweight methods of construction. There was considerable experimentation during the design process with specific details, to ensure that sound transmission was low. Particularly through the use of suspended floors, it in fact proved possible to achieve much higher than normal levels of sound insulation, which is crucial, not just between the floors in a dwelling but also between different dwellings.

The real achievement of this project, intended to act as a prototype for further construction, is in the quality of finishes and detailing. The judicious use of colour, not just in the red of the front doors but also in a restrained application of yellow to the balustrades of the external stairs, sets off the neutral tones of the metal. Nobody would doubt that it would be possible to put buildings together from industrial components – the achievement is in making them feel as crisp and well-finished as these do. Indeed, now softened by hedges that have grown up around them, they seem a comfortable if contemporary addition to the housing stock. What these silvery flats may have lost in terms of shock value they have gained in liveability and civic presence.

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