Sunday, June 7, 2009

The First Social Housing

Almost all social housing in Paris up until the 1960s (when concrete took over) was built using brick, so it is entirely appropriate that the first such structure should have been constructed with the material. At the beginning of the 20th century, such buildings followed Art Nouveau inspirations of the time and used brick and ceramics to very attractive effect, but here in the Rue Jeanne d'Arc, the brick is almost frightening in its rough simple form.

The architect Wilfred Chabrol had been asked to draw something functional, and he designed a structure with 35 almost identical two-room apartments. No thought was given to making the facade of the building attractive, indeed its harsh, cold form was supposed to act as a deterent. This was a structure designed to get the destitute back on their feet, not make them feel warm and comfortable in their position of the assisted.

Today it still looks oddly out of place in the city, but it still serves the same purpose, perhaps still with the same philosophy of not making residents feel too attached to the structure. However, when you have a roof over your head after spending nights beneath the stars, it is unlikely that you will worry too much about the facade of a structure that is bringing you warmth and shelter.

Address: 45 Rue Jeanne d'Arc, 75013
Architect: Wilbrod Chabrol
Year of construction: 1888

3 comments:

lovelyprism said...

I quite like the rough look of the brick on this building.

Adam said...

Lovelyprism: I'm sure it was used because it was the cheapest possible material available. What is probably more exceptional is the fact that it wasn't covered over with plaster or something.

However, Le Corbusier would later use exactly the same brickwork effect on some of his houses!

Herbaltablet said...

Very interesting post; I shall have to venture south of the river and explore the area sometime (I must confess that I don't know this part of the 13th very well).

However, if I may nitpick a moment, is there not an argument that the first social housing in Paris was the Cité Napoléon (on the corner of rue de Rochechouart and rue Pétrelle, in the 9th), built around 1850?

In any case, many thanks for drawing attention to this building.

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