Functional & safe: Rehabilitation for student accommodation in Toulouse with steel

Two existing buildings in Toulouse were transformed into student residences and therefore refurbished according to their new function. Exterior steel corridors were installed in order to adequately comply with the requirements of fire safety and rejuvenate the buildings' look - a collaboration of the architects and ArcelorMittal's Research & Development department.

Detailed information

This project is a response to an architectural competition held in 2008 for the creation of two student residences in two existing buildings measuring 75 m x 15 m close to a motorway route and located on the ENAC (Ecole Nationale de l’Aviation Civile) site. The programme included the construction of 445 studio apartments for students and the radical renewal of the buildings to alter their functioning in consonance with the site.

Architectural response for complete redesign

The submission from Aedificare architects along with ArcelorMittal Research & Development received permission to transform both buildings and turn them into lively places. Upon completion of the rehabilitation work, 452 studio apartments as well as a medical centre, measuring 320 m2, became available.

The two buildings were completely redesigned and modernised:

Vertical layout:

- The buildings are intersected by criss-crossing pathways, allowing glimpses of the sky and the landscape.
- The activity rooms are treated with aluminum, as are the two side walls, but with a different aluminum siding from the existing one.
- The size of the bulging elevator appears to inflate other building proportions.
- The side staircase with railings gives a face lift to the side wall of the building. It is covered with taut, reinforced, screen-printed PVC canvas to strengthen the railings. 

Horizontal layout:

- The new steel corridors that run along the facades at each level are used to access the apartments and also serve as a meeting place or as an extension of living spaces.
- Cap-shaped and just like wings, they appear to highlight and reinforce this new silhouette, while allowing the corridors to be sheltered.


- The outward appearance, filled with colour patterns and combinations, wears a pixelated finish.
- The facade panels synchronise with ENAC’s colour theme, enabling the building to blend with its environment, under the blue sky.
- The signs on the railings are written with a bold and rich font which adds to the overall theme. 

This redesign allows the buildings to blend well within the landscape of ENAC and align itself with the writing on the metal footbridge and on the canopy found on the educational buildings situated nearby.

Steel corridors as the key element of refurbishment

The corridors on the building facade provide an extension to the housing facilities and serve as a place for socialising in an outdoor area protected from sunlight and the motorway noise.

The part of the building that was extended with the help of steel corridors to facilitate external circulation led to the completion of work within 9 months (including installation of furniture). The space that was saved by creating corridors enabled the construction of 452 studio apartments and one medical centre measuring 320 m2.

Previously, the existing buildings were organised into a series of rooms of 9 m2 on both sides and a central area to facilitate internal movement. The principle aim was to recover the central corridor to house the bathrooms. The access to the rooms are now through the external metal corridors installed as an extension to the building.

In effect, the current structure has been enhanced with metal works. The existing facades were demolished and replaced with a full height curtain-wall, fixed on the edges of floors and the ends of load-bearing beams. The horizontal pathways are open and covered places: without smoke evacuation, without any special maintenance. They wind back and reach the front of the facades.

The access to each studio is through these external corridors that extend outside the housing. The room size is maintained or expanded to make room for 3 separate uses:

- A living space that can be designed with different configurations,
- A corner kitchenette / store
- A bathroom

The interior has been designed with great care with specific floor furniture that can be moved around and lighting is well-integrated (tubes are easily accessible for maintenance). The partition wall between the studio apartments was treated to improve sound insulation between dwellings both within the living spaces as well as in the bathrooms.

Made of ArcelorMittal steel

The corridors are made of galvanised steel tubes filled with concrete as well as IPE 240 and UPE 240 supplied by ArcelorMittal. The floors are made from a slab of concrete poured onto a composite steel deck. 

Steel was the immediate choice as it facilitates speedy execution and lends itself to the construction of very thin lightweight structures.

This is a dynamic structure, well-suited to student life, that offers great outdoor spaces to meet and inter-connect.

Project information

  • Toulouse
  • France
  • Architect:
    A. Balme - B. Rousseau - AEDIFICARE
  • 2009/2010
  • Client:
    Ecole de l'Aviation civile
  • Engineering firm:
    ArcelorMittal R&D
  • Contractor:
  • Photographer:
    B. Rousseau - AEDIFICARE