The rehabilitation project of the CNPS Charles de Gaulle building at Douala is a prime example of “augmented architecture”, designed in the spirit of a modernist building and enhancing it. It stands as a contemporary architectural icon, bearing witness of the transformations in the Cameroonian capital.
The Charles de Gaulle CNPS building (National Social Security Fund) is located in the heart of Douala, the economic and maritime capital of Cameroon, in a dynamic government district. Built in the 1980s, this former 15-story housing complex divided into two buildings, has been uninhabited for about two years.
After falling in a state of dilapidation due to lack of maintenance and a negative image, the building has been rehabilitated in a project seeking to enhance its iconic architecture by developing alternative uses. Indeed, the building possesses now a modern architectural identity and offers generous interior dimensions. The project's objective therefore is to enhance the formerly reclusive residential building and turn it into a new, mixed-function destination supporting multiple uses and open to the city. The project involved the construction of housing units in the southern wing and a residential hotel in the north, dominated by a top level lounge and other leisure areas (restaurant, bar, spa and fitness center), open to the public at large.
As a mark of respect for the existing building and its original architecture, the project sought to reinterpret the most striking features of the building and its history, in particular the expressive designs that establish a local presence, preserving the former bioclimatic architectural features. New structures have been added on the façade and on the rooftop to accommodate new uses. Spacious terraces open to the city have replaced the original smooth façades. A tall structure has been erected above the residential floors, standing as the new landmark of the neighborhood. These enhancements redefine an elegant and sober outline, expressed from the façades to the very core of the building in a curved and kinetic language. The facade is uniformly treated throughout the main body, following a unique pattern of fiber-cement panels modeled on the original geometric shapes. On the rooftop terrace, the generously glazed elevated structure offers magnificent views of the city, being protected on its entire perimeter by a succession of slender vertical slats over its four levels. This system protects the interior spaces from heat and light disturbances and highlights the building's curves and contemporary style.