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Developing prototypes for France's mass housing programme, 1949-53

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Abstract:

The results of two key competitions run by the French Ministry of Reconstruction and Urbanism in 1949 and 1950 have long been regarded as prototypes for les grands ensembles, the large mass housing developments of the 1950s and 1960s. Claudius-Petit, the minister (1948-52) and a strong supporter of modern architecture, believed that industrialization would raise both the quality and the volume of housing construction. The competitions, one for 200 dwellings at Villeneuve-Saint-Georges and the other for 800 in Strasbourg, were judged large enough to attract the interest of contractors working in the public works sector and capable of developing industrialized building techniques. In each competition the winning project, though able to satisfy the technical demands of the competition, won because of its architectural qualities, while the second place project addressed the issues of production more comprehensively. However, the subsequent development of mass housing in France has caused the legacy of the competitions to be identified with the mainstream emphasis on production and economy, bitterly attacked from the late 1950s onwards. This has overshadowed that combination of architectural and technical values, central to Claudius-Petit's vision for post-war housing, which was embodied in the two winning projects.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02665430601051890

Affiliations: Faculty of Architecture and History of Art, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

Publication date: January 1, 2007

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