The Power of Association: Le Corbusier in the Banlieues

Kenny Cupers
in: Terms of Appropriation: Modern Architecture and Global Exchange, edited by Amanda Reeser Lawrence and Ana Miljački, Routledge, 2018

The banlieues, areas of postwar housing in the suburbs of Paris and other French cities, are routinely associated with a single architect. French and international critics have pointed to Le Corbusier’s modernist architectural principles as a cause of the persistent social unrest in these suburbs over the past decades. Nevertheless, the architect’s own involvement in France’s postwar building boom was very limited, and commissions for mass housing estates went to the country’s elite corps of Beaux-Arts-trained architects. This chapter explores the institutional and technological networks through which architectural ideas circulated and modern housing was realized in postwar France. It traces the relationship between architectural authorship, heavy concrete panel prefabrication, cultural perceptions of French suburban living, and the real estate and construction industries. Its argument is that architectural influence can be understood as the inscription and transformation of formal and social ideas in fields far removed from the professional domain of architecture, but that were directly implicated in the spatial transformation of postwar France.

About the edited volume: This collection focuses on how architectural material is transformed, revised, swallowed whole, plagiarized, or in any other way appropriated. It charts new territory within this still unexplored yet highly topical area of study by establishing a shared vocabulary with which to discuss, or contest, the workings of appropriation as a vital and progressive aspect of architectural discourse. Written by a group of rising scholars in the field of architectural history and criticism, the chapters cover a range of architectural subjects that are linked in their investigations of how architects engage with their predecessors.

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