Living in offices. The alive triangle of Bordelongue in Toulouse

Emergency housings for refugees

The stock of empty offices in Toulouse grows and 220000 m2 are waiting to be used. At the same time we are facing a housing crisis. We propose to adapt for a short period, these empty offices as temporary houses and as a new way of living. We propose to act on the ground floor of the neighboring social housing to create links between the different users of this area.

Image work detail

Located in the south of Toulouse, the neighborhood of Bordelongue is close to our house and easy to access during the project. There are 3 new office buildings of 21 000 m2 in total. They are 75% empty since their construction in 2010. The owner of these towers is an international bank that invested before the financial crisis and looses 2 M€ each year in these vacated offices. In front of these office buildings, we find many social housing which are qualified by the government as, « sensitive neighborhood » and all the last actions didn't produce any effective results. The interest of this localisation is the confrontation between new empty offices and these public housing of the 70’s.

This project is the opportunity to propose a local solution to a global problem and open the field of opportunities that can offer the vacated offices for the society. The consequence of the speculation of the office market is a large stock of vacated offices, that we can find in our city - Toulouse - but also all around the world. Nowadays, office buildings are nothing more than standardized products with an open plan, a structure posts/beams, a central concrete nucleus and a curtain wall façade. The complexity of this problem is more economical than architectural. Indeed, the cost of transformation is so high that the owner will never be able to earn back his investment and that is why he prefers to keep his building empty and loose each year a lot of money than rather adapt his building. We were also really concerned about the housing crisis and the human crisis due to the migration from Syria these last years. We wanted to answer this double issues : this growing stock of empty offices whose owners are losing money without any solutions and the incapacity of the government to propose accommodation for the migrants. Designing temporary houses without loosing the first destination of this building, without touching the structure, was a really exciting challenge. Moreover, interviewing migrants and learning from them, how they use to live, was a true lesson of life. The other main aspect of this project that interest us, was all the work that we realized with the people of this neighborhood. We worked at the same time with the inhabitants of the social housings in front of the vacated offices and with the few laborers of these offices. We started a long work of mutual exchange, in order to build with them the mental picture of Bordelongue and understand the reason of the negative aspect of this neighborhood. We did long interviews, guided tours and workshops in order to allow these two separated groups to meet together. This project was also the opportunity for us to develop professional skills because we have met a lot of professionals of the architecture field (institutions, associations, office owner, asset manager).