France Contemporary Architecture Part I

According to politicsezine, contemporary architecture in France is centered on the name of Le Corbusier. After the transition from the “liberty style” to what was later called rational, which took place mainly by Tony Garnier, François Le Coeur, Auguste Perret, Henri Sauvage, the architect Le Corbusier, of Swiss origin, led with the writings and with the works that battle in favor of a functional architecture that was to remain the most notable fact of contemporary French architecture, the closest to the general trends of European architecture. The first of Le Corbusier’s numerous volumes is Vers une architecture, from 1923; the first of his daring works is the Esprit Nouveau Pavilionat the Exhibition of Decorative Arts in Paris, in 1925. The ideal reasons for his architecture were human, but in a physical sense: the joy of living had to be found in a healthy and functional house, therefore also in clear forms. But his buildings were, more than a rational fact, an important plastic fact; and in it they were connected on the one hand to those of Tony Garnier, that is, to the French premises of contemporary architecture, and on the other to those of the avant-garde architects of the most modern European countries. In addition to the love of stylistic simplicity and the rethinking of architectural “Greekness”, the influence of Tony Garnier on Le Corbusier is in the new intelligence of architecture as an essentially urban, that is, social, resolution of the science of construction; in his famous ”

From 1920 onwards all the French architects of any value worked on these guidelines. The greatest success fell to Robert Mallet-Stevens; died in 1945, and builder, among other things, of all the houses forming a street in Paris that bears his name; of the casino of Saint-Jean de Luz, of the light pavilion at the 1937 Paris Universal Exposition, of shops and various houses. But André Lurçat and Marcel Lods count more than him; the first are the great schools of Villejuif, a hotel in Corsica, limpid villas and houses; of Lods, in collaboration with E. Beaudouin, the Suresnes open-air schools, the high-rise residential districts of Drancy, those of Bagneux and the Clichy People’s House, built immediately before the 1940 war.

Among the major works of the old architects, we must remember in the first place those built by Tony Garnier (died in 1948) in Lyon from 1900 to 1920: the stadium, the slaughterhouse and the livestock market, the weaving school, the hospital, the war memorial, houses and villas; and the town hall of Boulogne-sur-Seine from 1934. The most interesting buildings in Le Coeur are the house in via Bergère in Paris (1910), and the post office in Reims, from 1922; of Sauvage the terraced houses in via Vavin (1910) and via des Amiraux (1922) in Paris; by Perret the Ponthieu garage, from 1906, the Champs Elysées theater, built by him in 1911, but designed by the Belgian architect Henry van de Velde, the church of the Raincy (1923). Important and active architects of the following generation are also Beaudouin, Ch. Siclis, M. Roux-Spitz, GH Pingusson, of which particularly original is a large hotel in Saint-Tropez built in 1931. Of the works of Le Corbusier, all brilliant, the best known are the villa Savoye in Passy-sur-Seine, from 1928, the headquarters of the Salvation Army (1929) and that of the Swiss College in the university city (1930) in Paris; villas in France, various buildings in Bordeaux, Stuttgart, Moscow; projects and regulatory plans. Constructors of airports, bridges, hangars, industrial buildings among the largest and most modern in Europe are Le Marec, E. Freyssinet, Labro.

After the Second World War the activity of French architects took place especially in the field of urban planning; everyone is committed to land use plans rather than individual building projects; and this is the new, extremely important turning point in contemporary French architecture. Among the works in progress, the most grandiose is the reconstruction of Le Havre, entrusted to Perret together with that of the station area in Amiens; the most daring is that of a residential district with skyscrapers in Marseille, entrusted to Le Corbusier, who also designs different city plans. The other major projects under study are: the refurbishment of Mainz and Sotteville, by Marcel Lods; that of Maubeuge and the workers’ quarters in Haumont, of Lurçat; that of the entire Sarre region, of Pingusson; that of the city of railway workers in Tergnier, by Urbain Cassan; others by Mathon, Lebreton, J. Greber and young architects, whose work aims to renew the urban face of France and its colonies.

France Contemporary Architecture 1