Memories of Future Past
October 2, 2015 7:08 AM   Subscribe

Photographs of crumbling modernist architecture in Paris. This is a sampling of the photography in Laurent Kronental's "Souvenir d'un Futur" exhibit, showing the crumbling majesty of Paris' architectural experiments during a period of great growth.
posted by ChrisR (34 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
More like memories of the soviet block... Yikes!

I was hoping to see Centre Pompidou on that list. Man I hate that thing.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:12 AM on October 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Being a fan of brutalism, I hope at least a few specimens survive its current unpopularity and the tendency of concrete to crumble. Compared to contemporary starchitecture (for which the ideal form is apparently be a giant glass fishbowl dropped from the sky and allowed to shatter) many of these buildings actually look cozy and inviting.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 7:20 AM on October 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


Huh. I actually like a lot of these -- they aren't Brutalist except in some close-ups, and the curves put me in mind of sets of archways, and I'm a sucker for archways. Besides, I'm a child of the 1960's, so feel nostalgia for this kind of futurism.
posted by Mogur at 7:20 AM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Now do Lyon or Grenoble!
posted by blue_beetle at 7:21 AM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


There's a soft spot in my heart for the architecture of La Défense and Courbevoie. Sure, it's dated (as is any architectural style), and sure, not all of it worked well, but there's a lot to be said for the unabashed boldness of it. It overflows with character, when the vast majority of architecture seeks to avoid just that.

It's not everyone's thing -- maybe for most people -- but it most definitely is mine.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:23 AM on October 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


Being a fan of brutalism, I hope at least a few specimens survive its current unpopularity and the tendency of concrete to crumble.

They're expensive as hell to demolish so they have that in favor of their survival rate.
posted by octothorpe at 7:26 AM on October 2, 2015


If you want to see urban planning and its compromises treated through drama, I recommend Michael Frayn's play Benefactors
posted by lalochezia at 7:35 AM on October 2, 2015


I really like those buildings, they're a hell of a lot more interesting than my city's mid-century high rises. Not so much a fan of the photographer's metaphor between the aging buildings and their aging occupants though, seems kind of disrespectful of the subjects. Are they looking "resilient but vaguely forlorn" because they're "haunted by memories of the hopeful heydays of their homes", or because they're aware they're being objectified for someone's art project?
posted by threecheesetrees at 7:37 AM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think a lot of those are quite cool but you can kind of see how they would fail as housing projects, Le Viaduc et le Temple looks like it would be a pain in the ass to actually live in.
posted by ghharr at 7:39 AM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


There wasn't a single picture in there where I didn't find the architecture amazing and unique. So much more interesting than the standard buildings I see all over the place.
posted by evilangela at 7:49 AM on October 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


These are amazingly beautiful, though I agree with ghharr about livability.

That said, this looks like the Last Stop of the Montreal Metro, many of whose interiors also have this magnificent unchosen-future vibe.
posted by mhoye at 7:55 AM on October 2, 2015


I'd like to point out that some of those are certainly not Modernist but rather Post-Modernist (which is not a kind of modernism), especially Les Espaces d’Abraxas.
posted by signal at 7:59 AM on October 2, 2015 [7 favorites]


Fantastique
posted by growabrain at 8:06 AM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I thought the architecture in Paris was stunningly beautiful, even all the stark 80's eurotrash architecture looked better than most of midwest urban america. I loved all of these. I guess I like things trying and possibly failing. It's better than boring and safe in my opinion?

I feel really cliche saying this, but I totally fell in with love paris, and I can't help it. Even the worst parts of the city are something to write home about, even the night I ended up being led around by a group of Parisian men who I'm fairly certain drugged me and I ended up in some random discotheque in Pigalle playing the worst 80's pop you can imagine, where I blacked again out for the 4th or 5th time of the night, then came too in the bathroom, realizing I was completely lost and WAY more than 4 beers wasted, barely able to move, and, holding onto to whatever shreds of coherence I had left, worked my out of the bar into the 4AM streets, and struggled to find my way back to my AirBnb before I passed out on the sidewalks of Pigalle and the men I was with found me and did whatever it is they do with pretty passed out girls from America. But hey, other than that night the week I spent there was pretty grand.
posted by Annika Cicada at 8:10 AM on October 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


We seem drawn to things in ruin. The mixing of the failing buildings and the old citizens I assume is not by chance, since many young folks must also live in and around those places.
Housing projects of any kind seem inevitably to fail as comfortable and life affirming places,
posted by Postroad at 8:10 AM on October 2, 2015


Those are pretty pics but the text is slighly misleading. These are not typical examples of post-WWII grand ensembles but isolated architectural utopian experiments from the 1970-1980s. Ricardo Bofill's Arcades du Lac and the Espaces d'Abraxas were built in 1981 and 1983 respectively. Les Tours nuages were built in 1977. Another example would be the Choux (The Cabbages) at Créteil (1969-1974). As far as I know, none are "crumbling" or in ruins let alone deserted, though certainly not as successful as hoped: utopia doesn't make livable architecture (I've only been to Abraxas: it's beautiful but dark). Indeed, Abraxas was used as a location in dystopian movies such as Brazil and more recently in the Hunger Games. An actual iconic example of post-war degraded banlieues would be La Cité des 4000, which was built in 1964 and is now mostly demolished.
posted by elgilito at 8:15 AM on October 2, 2015 [7 favorites]


okay " La Cité des 4000" looks depressing as hell.
posted by Annika Cicada at 8:18 AM on October 2, 2015


And I think it's pretty cute how objects in France have "choux" in their name as a metaphor for their shape or design. (La Choux pastries, for example)
posted by Annika Cicada at 8:21 AM on October 2, 2015


Terminology, both here and in the article, is all over the place.
posted by cromagnon at 8:22 AM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


These are so beautiful. Amazing buildings.
posted by cincinnatus c at 8:39 AM on October 2, 2015


What photos are supposed to show crumbing? I don't see any evidence of crumbling at all.
posted by rocket88 at 8:52 AM on October 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


Shades of Clockwork Orange (the movie).
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:58 AM on October 2, 2015


I'm sure these are widely reviled in Paris, but I find them incredibly atmospheric, even beautiful in a way. I hope someone shoots a film in some of these locations.
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 9:48 AM on October 2, 2015


I have passed this link along to the appropriate comics artists.
posted by Artw at 10:40 AM on October 2, 2015


IKR, Rocket88. These may be out of current style and a little scuffed on the surfaces, but all of them look to have held up very well (especially compared to that Tokyo pod building from an earlier FPP).
posted by rikschell at 10:43 AM on October 2, 2015


These photos are fantastic. The compositions really highlight the architecture. I definitely am interested in searching out more info on the buildings I don't already know and the photographer.
posted by SometimesChartreuse at 11:09 AM on October 2, 2015


Yeah I don't get the 'crumbling' either (with the possible exception of Les Tours Aillaud, though the unusual coloration might be intentional). Frankly the buildings look like they're in great shape.
posted by crazy with stars at 11:22 AM on October 2, 2015


elgilito has it- these are not the sterile glass cubes of la Défense that Jacques Tati mocked in Playtime. They are the post-war response to Le Corbusier's architecture as social experiment. Of course, as it turns out, the real problem with the "towers in the park" was not form, but social isolation and eventual institutional neglect and abandonment. This was as much the case for the more exuberant structural experiments of the nouvelles banlieues of the '70s and '80s as it was for the earlier tower blocs. It did lead to some interesting civic buildings, though. Personally, I'm a fan of Bobigny.


Shades of Clockwork Orange (the movie).


This should not come as any surprise, considering that it was filmed around the outer suburbs of London and Brunel University, designed using the same principles.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:27 PM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm sure these are widely reviled in Paris, but I find them incredibly atmospheric, even beautiful in a way. I hope someone shoots a film in some of these locations.

Absolutely. It's so interesting to contrast these pictures with the twee classicism of something like Amelie. I would actually LOVE to see a sci-fi dystopian romance set in this version of Paris.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 12:53 PM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


A problem specific to these experimental buildings is that they included non-standard features that are difficult to maintain and to replace. The Tours Aillaud (the "Clouds Towers") are not neglected, but maintenance is more expensive than for conventional buildings. Their funny-shaped windows are fragile, dangerous and require a special (patented) moulding process that costs twice the price of a standard window frame. The towers themselves are covered with small pieces of coloured decorative "glass paste" that tend to come off and are no longer produced. Exterior cleaning requires specific suspended platforms etc.

I would actually LOVE to see a sci-fi dystopian romance set in this version of Paris.
As I noted above, Brazil was filmed in part in the Espace d'Abraxas and the Panem scenes in the next Hunger Games movie were shot last year at the Espaces d'Abraxas and at the Cité du Parc in Ivry-sur-Seine.
posted by elgilito at 1:48 PM on October 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


I would actually LOVE to see a sci-fi dystopian romance set in this version of Paris.


Well, you're in luck.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:49 PM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


What gorgeous buildings. Patina has only added to their beauty. I can only imagine how beautiful The Radiant City would be by now.
posted by bouvin at 2:21 PM on October 2, 2015


Most of these are really beautiful. I'd love to see them in person.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:07 PM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wow, as a parisian i'm really surprised at the reactions here. I try to stay away from those places, not only because some of those neighborhood are not safe (or rather have the reputation of not being safe) but also because on a cloudy day they can crush your soul.
It's cool looking and yes it looks like Brazil but when you're there you also feel like you're in Brazil, and that's a shitty feeling.
Those are not movie sets, people live there, they wake up to that sea of concrete everyday.
posted by SageLeVoid at 3:08 AM on October 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


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