In what is already Europe’s most crowded capital city,it is perhaps an unenviable honour to be labelled the densest building in Paris. Though undoubtedly hefty and imposing, the building that claims this crown is not without a certain grace and charm – and one or two surprises!
Designed by the architect Léon Nafilyan in the 1930s, the construction takes up a long strip of the Rue Raynouard – a residential artery that lies parallel to the Rue de Passy in the 16th arrondissement. The design, sometimes labelled ‘American style’, has a density that is more often associated with city-centre office blocks, but it also shows how the modern style of architecture had been completely adopted by the middle-classes in this period.
Compared to neighbouring Haussmannian structures, the building is relatively free of decoration. It adheres to the ‘form follows function’ doctrine, but also manages to incorporate a certain number of art-deco influenced flourishes.
Despite its size (it stretches over three plots – from numbers 21 to 25), it is a very harmonious and balanced building, notably thanks to the art deco features – curved balconies, an undulating façade, angular bay windows and a visible staircase column. In keeping with its bourgeois neighbours, there is though little ‘truth to materials’ here. Although the construction is based around a concrete skeleton, Nafilyan chose to cover the frame in more conservative blocks of stone.