The Maison de l’Ordre des Avocats (MOdA, the headquarters of the Paris Bar Association), is an integral part of the new CitéJudiciaire, a group of buildings dedicated to the legal profession, currently under construction in Paris’s 17th arrondissement. Symbolically transparent, the life of the building, its activity and its comings and goings, will be clearly visible through its facade. The MOdA is sited so that its building fits with and references the much larger Palais de Justice (law courts) building, while standing proudly independent from it, a clear entity in its own right. Structurally sophisticated to deal with a site that sits on top of the Metro, it is also an important part of the new public urban spaces being generated here that will invigorate this neighbourhood.
The new CitéJudiciaire is in the Clichy Batignolles development zone, in the north-west corner of Paris. The site is bounded by the Avenue de la Porte de Clichy to the north, the périphérique city ring-road to the west, the rail lines into the Gare St Lazare to the south, and the Square de Batignolles and Rue Cardinet to the east.
With large office and apartment buildings around its periphery, the heart of the development centres on two key elements:
-the new Palais de Justice (the law courts), with which are associated the Direction Régionale Police Judiciare de Paris (the regional judicial police headquarters), and the Maison de l’Ordre de l’Avocats, (the Paris Bar Association) and which together constitute the new CitéJudiciaire;
-the Martin Luther King park, a green lung for the city, a planted, green space for relaxation, but also the meeting point of routes across the site, a pedestrianised area that will drive and animate urban activity. Three key ideas guided the design of this building.
Firstly, transparency – an important symbolic ideal for the institutions responsible for maintaining justice. The MOdA building will not only embody this ideal, but communicate it too. With its highly transparent facade, the building’s architecture puts everything inside on display, activity and contents. As part of this new image of justice for Paris, the staircases, the library, the salle des marchés (the trading room) and the board room and all the life of the building is clearly visible behind the facade. The shape of the building is part of this too: a sloping plane on the facade clearly references the shape of the auditorium just behind it, and the level of the building’s roof terrace is perfectly aligned with that of the first layer of the law courts, demonstrating an important equality.
The second idea relates to the building’s context. The MOdA’s main facade is orientated towards the main concourse in front of the law courts, a space that is a carefully modulated mix of hard surfaces and planting and mature trees. Supplementing the Martin Luther King park, this square will serve as a space for meeting and a place for exchange, a new public space for the life of the neighbourhood.
The third factor, inseparable from the first two, is functionality. The Maison de l’Ordre des Avocats will become the principal site in Paris for bar professionals, alongside the existing MOdA offices on Place Dauphine (in the centre of Paris), and dedicated spaces to be created inside the new Palais de Justice. The new building will house a 170-seat auditorium, a library, the administrative bodies and offices of the Bar Association, the offices of CARPA (the Lawyers' Pecuniary Payment Fund), the board room and the Bar President’s office; in short a place essential to the lawyers’ work, only two steps from the law courts, but free of its constraints. The organization of the various functions within this space was strongly influenced by the desire to make them easily accessible.
Part of the building is positioned directly above a Paris metro station which limits the scope for traditional foundations. By constructing in steel, huge cantilevers can be incorporated into the design. The nose of the building, where it tapers towards Avenue de la Porte de Clichy, will be suspended via a system of masts and tension rods located on each side of the two principal facades. Lifting the building in this way also creates the potential for extra transparency at ground floor level to either side of the building’s core. Meanwhile the cut away slope under the auditorium opens views through to Boulevard Berthier and Martin Luther King park. This section of the facade which also oversails the concourse, is supported by two slim steel columns. Despite the dense complexity of its functional and architectural aspirations, and the constraints of the site, the building has been designed to appear as light and transparent as possible. At the same time, the alignment of its roof terrace with that of the law courts generates a strong horizontal that frames and anchors the concourse.