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building study

In the town of Mulhouse, south Alsace, Lewis, in collaboration with the Nantes-based group Block, is overseeing the final construction phase of a street of social housing. Jean Nouvel, Lacaton & Vassal, Shigeru Ban and Mathieu Poitevin are also working on projects for the same site. It adjoins a 19th-century workers' garden city, designed by engineer Emile Muller.

Lewis drew in particular on the way Muller surrounded clusters of dwellings with belts of garden, and how generations of residents have customised the standard accommodation to meet changing needs.

Like Muller, Lewis groups four dwellings under a single roof, but has created apartments of varying sizes, with adaptable spaces - provision for mezzanines, for example - and encourages a much greater degree of openness to the exterior. One of the apartments has a double-height bay, while another profits from a large cantilevered room on the first floor. These blocks are then attached to wire-mesh frameworks, which contain tree plantations. Some extend onto the roof to demarcate the terrace space.

Lewis foresees that the frameworks and their staircases will be customised gradually, either lightly, as terraced gardens, or perhaps more heavily, as actual extensions to the interior.

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