The convention for the construction of a second pavilion for the Maison de Tunisie was signed on the 29th of May 2016 by Chiheb Bouden, the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research for the Republic of Tunisia, Mohamed Ali Chihi, the ambassador for the Republic of Tunisia in France, president of the fondation de la Maison de la Tunisie, François Weil, chancellor of the academic region Île-de-France, chancellor of the Académie de Paris, chancellor of the universities and Marcel Pochard, president of the Fondation nationale Cité internationale universitaire de Paris.
This second pavilion for the Maison de Tunisie, whose name pays homage to the former president of the Tunisian Republic and former resident of the Cité internationale, allows the house to double the amount of accommodation for Tunisian students and researchers whose first destination is France.
It was financed by a donation from the Tunisian state, by funds from the fondation de la Maison de Tunisie and by a loan, for a global cost of 23.5 million euros. It opened its doors at the beginning of the 2020 school year. With the construction of this pavilion the Maison de Tunisie is the fifth to benefit from an extension, like the Maison du Canada, de l’Inde, des Arts et Métiers and the Maison Agroparistech.
The house holds the status of a foundation and is recognised as a public utility of which the board of directors is chaired by the Tunisian ambassador in France.
The building’s conception was entrusted to the group “Explorations Architecture / Lamine Ben Hibet / Galerie Itinerrance / OTE / Otelio / BEGC”. The project was chosen for its modernity and contemporary aesthetic that perfectly integrates into the architectural heritage of the Cité internationale all whilst bringing a Tunisian touch. Project management assistance was entrusted to OSKAPROD (the group’s representative) and MENIGHETTI.
The project’s organic form allows it to respond to the constraints of a plot that is very exposed to the view, noise and natural elements. Rather than referring to an architectural style or a specific era, the building is an abstract representation of Tunisian culture, notably with the double aluminium skin that changes colours and reflects the sky. This metallic mesh evokes the tradition of Mashrabiya in Tunisian architecture as well as Arab-Muslim calligraphy. It was coordinated by the Tunisian designer Wisign (Wissem Soussi) who also designed the furniture. The design of the Arab-Muslim lettering motifs were entrusted to the Tunisian calligraphy artist Shoof (Hosni Hertelli) and to Agence W & You under the artistic direction of the Galerie Itinerrance. In total 1892 letters adorn the façade, following the building’s curvature. From a functional point of view, it protects against the sun and gives a real intimacy to all of the spaces, including at night by the ring road. This artistic approach retranslates the image of a modern Tunisia steeped in its identity.
At the heart of the pavilion the atrium that is lit by a skylight is the real place for meetings and exchanges and spans seven floors, connecting all the spaces in the building. The communal kitchen for residents is located in the extension. Accessible by the entrance hall, the study room, the 250-seat auditorium as well as the tea parlour are open to the public. A courtyard patio was created in order to recall the traditional structure of Tunisian houses. The accommodation, that benefits from access reserved to the residents, is equipped with blond wood furniture made to measure. The 197 rooms open up 360° to offer each resident a panoramic view.