Juli 2020

La Petite Afrique, MN

Located at the heart of Monte Carlo, the site lays next to the prestigious gardens of Le Grand Casino and a block from the Hotel de Paris and the Salle Garnier. The ambience of the surrounding streets and local topography, the mixed use program and the luxurious character of the building gave us the first solutions to the general zoning of the required program.

To appreciate the view of the Casino gardens and, on the upper floors, of the Mediterranean Sea, was one of the most important guidelines for this project since its first conception. Each floor is entirely surrounded with balcony gardens, turning the outdoor view into an extension of the indoor area. In the form of sand- colored limestone solids, these balcony gardens carefully embed the building into its urban context, mingling with Monaco’s traditional light-colored plaster façades with large terraces. At the same time, an arranged composition varying the heights of these solids on its curved façade introduces an iconic building and a contemporary architectural language into this predominantly Beaux-Arts quarter of Monaco.

Av. de la Madone, a calm curvilinear road which slopes uphill right by the gardens of the Monte Carlo Casino, leads to the private entrance of the apartments. The main residential lobby opens up to the neighboring gardens, calmly harmonizing them to be part of the site. Vehicle access to the parking area on the basement levels is also on this floor, through a generous curved ramp. The upper ground level on Boulevard des Moulins provides a more direct transit and pedestrian access amongst lively cafés, retail and service agencies, appointing the natural entrance to the commercial space of the project.

From there one can access all three commercial levels, a flexible space that can be occupied either by separate users or by one large company. On the first basement level, where natural light can still be captured through roof lights, there is the private spa for the building residents. It features a lap pool, a fitness area, a relaxation room, a bar, a massage room, wet and dry saunas, showers and a service area. Apartments were distributed one per floor and occupy the entire plan with exception of the one on the second floor, which share the level with commercial space. The penthouse also stands out by occupying the last floor plus the floor below and the roof terrace, with a large pool area and a shady pergola, both providing breathtaking views.

This strategy attends the lower limit of the eight apartments required by the developer and creates the highest configuration for living standards throughout the building. The apartment plan comes with two suites plus a master suite with a walk-in closet, large social and dining rooms, a study and spacious kitchen and service areas. Staff accomodation and storage areas are independent and are all located in the first and ground floor levels. The private rooms of the program are enclosed in bronze-sheeted volumes, whereas the social areas are entirely transparent, separated from the exterior by glass doors and partitions.

Maximum terrace area permitted by local regulation was used to create large open areas, taking advantage of the regions exceptional climate and providing natural lighting and ventilation. When the glass doors are open the social area turns into a large continuous area facing the gardens and the Mediterranean Sea, with outdoor rooms and gardens that can be used year round.

Nevertheless, other configurations for the apartments were made possible as the chosen structural system allows tailor made plans for each proprietor. Added to the unique outdoor qualities of each apartment this enables the real feeling of living in a private residence, each one with its own personality. By addressing the local urban environment with a respectful yet international language, the overall design intends to innovate but not to overshadow the heritage buildings surrounding it. While producing a design of character, evincing the contrast between the present and the past, it is important to value and learn from the important existing urban context. An elegant architecture makes a statement while becoming a part of the city right from the start.

Architecture: Isay Weinfeld

Photography: Fernando Guerra