bricks encased in stainless steel frames could not be repeated here for budgetary reasons. In a much less expensive variation on the same theme, however, he opted for terracotta tiles, instead of bricks, and prefabricated panels of fibreglass-reinforced concrete, instead of steel, thus conferring on the project a character which Le Monde referred to as an economical version of IRCAM. Fibreglass-rein-forced concrete can be as finely sculpted as steel but it has the added advantage of being much cheaper, as Jean-Pierre M6nard has pointed out. This technique was still at an experimental stage when the building was conceived. The combination of glass and cement is normally ruled out because the former is attacked by the alkaline components of the latter. Working with the Betsinor company, two types of panels were developed: one a 'shell' for the solid walls; the other a 'lattice' for the transparent ones. These are attached by metal brackets sealed into the structural cement. The terracotta tiles, specially moulded to interlock with each other once in place, are not plastered onto the surface, but hung from snub-nosed supports projecting from the surface of the shell modules. This building shares a common trait with other Piano buildings: it is at the cutting edge of new construction technology, and it could not have been built previously.
It is to the credit of the Régie Immobilière de la Ville de Paris that it had the foresight to commission the Renzo Piano team for this project, and to the credit of the uniquely versatile Renzo Piano team that it applied the same enlightened rationality and technological invention to this modest social project as it has in the past when working on higher 'prestige' profiles.
(This page and opposite) Views of the units from the interior court
(Opposite, below left) Detail of the ceramic-tile exterior of the wall showing the suspension method used
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