The city of Paris – a beautiful place filled with some of the most famous architectural masterpieces in the world such as the Eiffel Tower, the Notre Dame, and the Louvre. Let’s face it, they’re the first place a tourist is going to go to capture that perfect picture for Instagram. But the people who really love architecture tend to travel in a slightly different way, which is exactly what Gaunt Francis architect Kim did.
Kim developed a passion for post-war architecture during her studies, having been tutored by architect and academic Professor Pete Salter. As a keen photographer, Kim is able to capture some stunning images, which she actively posts on her Instagram page – BetonBrut. Kim spent 3 days discovering some true hidden gems around the city, in areas which a typical tourist isn’t likely to explore as the most striking examples of Parisian Post War architecture are found beyond the ‘Périphérique’ in the zones that saw rapid expansion in the second half of the twentieth century.
Her first stop was the Beaubourg area of the 4th arrondissement of Paris, near Les Halles.
The image, taken by Kim, is the Centre Georges Pompidou, commonly shortened to Centre Pompidou. It was designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano and British architect Richard Rogers. The project was awarded to the team thanks to an architectural design competition. It was the first time in France that international architects were allowed to participate.
It is named after George Pompidou – the President of France between 1969-1974 and officially opened in 1977. Located on 19 Rue Beaubourg, it is one of the most iconic building in Paris and houses the Mussée National d’Art Moderne which is the largest museum for modern art in Europe. Its exposed skeleton of brightly coloured tubes for mechanical systems was the beginning of a new era of architecture and is a must visit.
Kim’s next destination was Ivry-sur-Seine in the Parisian banlieues. It is an 8-buildings complex and is a 60,000 inhabitant municipality that sits on the South East periphery of the city, known as an ‘Banlieues Rouge’ due to the repeated election of a communist mayor. As such the municipality has significant emphasis on social and affordable housing, with the most radical elements designed by the Architect Jean Renaudie alongside his wife Renée Gailhoustet. . The three buildings ‘Danielle Casonova’, ‘Jeanne Hachette’, and ‘Jean-Baptiste Clément’ are named respectively after a Communist resistant to the Nazi occupation, a 16th century French heroin and a member of the 1971 French commune.
France has a long tradition of state social housing intervention. In 1775 the Royal Saltworks at Arc-et-Senans was built to accommodate workers.
Renaudie’s Ivry-complex is made up of 40 social dwellings, offices and stores which are mixed on different levels composing a almost pyramid structure. Nearly forty years after its construction, the freshness of the proposal remains intact, even if people who live it often don’t know the futuristic aim of the project. The oblique angles and the green element shaped the strategy to lighten the presence of concrete, in order to mix nature and architectural structure.
Kim’s last stop was to the suburb of Créteil to see the housing blocks known as Les Choux de Créteil (The Cauliflowers of Créteil) – a name given due to the unusual shape of their balconies. This unique structure is a group of ten cylindrical towers, where each building stands 15 storeys high and was designed by the Architect Gérard Grandval, and completed in 1974.
The project was recognised as a “Heritage of the 20th Century” from the French Ministry of Culture; at the time the work was regarded as a symbol of 1970’s French architecture. The buildings’ unique shape is intended to be functional; the apartments’ living spaces are closer to the windows, and the 2-meter-tall balconies provide outdoor access and privacy at the same time. The round balconies were intended to evoke gardens and seasons.
In 1998, the municipality opted to upgrade the area. The central sprout, largely dedicated to families of precarious means, was rebuilt. To encourage social intermixing, the leaders dedicated a fourth of the apartments to students.
What remains striking with regards to these two projects are their unique approach to special organisation, both constructed to be symbolic centrepieces.