CHRS Richelieu social housing and reintegration centre
best architects 19
Villeurbanne / France
During the 19th and 20th centuries, the Ferrandière area in Villeurbanne (near Lyon) underwent several transformations, and yet the Coeur Immaculée de Marie Church remained as a permanent landmark on the cityscape. The implantation of a CHRS (social housing and reintegration centre) including 17 social housing units is meant to ensure remembrance by means of reversal: the church, a former place of worship sold by the diocese, becomes the centre’s yard, a space whose geometry remains unaffected. Only the volumetry has been modified: the roof removed and the walls shortened to 4 meters high. They thus form an enclosure while recalling history. The memory of the building is preserved through its walls, ground and materiality. The void thus created, its advent as both old and new landscape, is a stronger tribute than any museum devoted to a place that is no longer used as a religious edifice.
Through reversal, the church becomes a courtyard, with its geometry and space preserved. Materiality, liturgical ornaments (stained-glass windows, frescoes) disappear, giving way to a contemporary materiality that makes new lay appropriation possible. The yard also acts as an urban threshold, an important step toward the acceptance of the centre by the neighbours. The yard makes it possible to welcome the corresponding public (destitute people feeling the urge to be «outside») in a recessed open-sky space set apart from the street.