• Natalia Rumyantseva

Organic Architecture by Gerard Grandval

Updated: Jan 21, 2020

Today we will have a look at the organic architecture of the 1970s on the example of Gerard Grandval, a French architect.

Gerard Grandval is a French architect and poet born in Paris in 1930. He tried to destroy the French typology of social housing after World War II, using principles of organic architecture.

He is well known as the architect of the Les Choux de Creteil project in Paris, where he was able to create a residential complex with an innovative prefabricated design.

The residential complex, consisting of ten towers (each with 15 floors), was built in the early 1970s as an experimental approach to the needs of public housing.

Architect Grandval said that he had taken inspiration from dahlias when designing, but the locals "thought the building looked like a cabbage or cauliflower, so the name became wide-spread". The name was also influenced by the fact that this region was famous for growing cabbage.

Petal-shaped balconies, giving the buildings a unique look, were designed to ensure the privacy of residents. Balconies-petals were intended to create vertical gardens. Unfortunately, the idea was refused by the developers interested in protecting buildings from insects.

The residential complex was supposed to provide a whole infrastructure: parking, cinemas, school, kindergarten, shops etc.

The first three levels have a parking lot. Almost all the rooms of the apartments of the residential complex face the street.

Without exception, all apartments are equipped with a balcony-petal with a large concrete shell, reaching almost two meters. This unusual layout allows a resident of the flower building to have a whole view of the city and have a protected "winter garden" in the open air.

Why flower beds, flower cities? Gerard Grandval replied:

"Because city lockers are ominous. "City-locker" is a cubic, straight combination. The flower is anticubic. I was told my Dahlia buildings looked more like cabbage. I have nothing against cabbage. I prefer cabbage complexes than perpendicular, stupid ensembles. It is necessary to build mad, vegetative and touching. First of all, beware of functionality...»

"Why do we insist on creating a 'cube' instead of a 'flower'? Because it's easier and easier, and also because we've forgotten this old Latin genius called lyricism."

As a result, the construction of the complex caused a stir, Les Choux de Creteil was criticized (the care of the buildings was considered tedious, there was little storage space in the apartments).

However, in 1998, the city decided to breathe new life into the complex and allocated part of the narrow apartments to students.

In 2008, the government finally recognized the complex as a historic landmark. Today, Les Choux de Creteil is considered to be testimony of the French idealism of the 1970s.

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