Le Corbusier - Cité Frugès - Pessac, France
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member RakeInTheCache
N 44° 47.964 W 000° 38.868
30T E 686035 N 4963358
Quick Description: [FR] La Cité Frugès est l’un des deux lotissements conçus par l’architecte français d'origine suisse Le Corbusier en 1924 pour Henry Frugès.[EN] La Cité Frugès is a 1920s housing estate of particular architectural and historical significance.
Location: Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France
Date Posted: 4/17/2014 1:01:36 PM
Waymark Code: WMKHN2
Published By: Groundspeak Regular Member Mark1962
Views: 5

Long Description:
[FR] L’industriel souhaitait loger des ouvriers « sur une vaste prairie entourée de bois de pins, pour y édifier une cité jardin ». Sur le projet initial de 135 maisons, les 50 habitations construites répondent à 6 types différents : zig-zag, quinconce, gratte-ciel, arcade (architecture), maison isolée, et jumelles. Avec leurs toitures terrasses, leur construction en béton armé et la polychromie de leurs façades, les maisons furent un laboratoire en vraie grandeur des idées novatrices de l'architecte.

La maison située 3 rue des Arcades, maison-type dans un ensemble de sept à la limite du quartier et qui a conservé un état proche de l’origine, est classée Monument historique.

La Ville de Pessac a redécouvert son patrimoine à l’occasion de ce classement et a acquis une maison « gratte-ciel » (située 4 rue Le Corbusier), transformée en maison Frugès - Le Corbusier, ouverte à la visite et lieu de diverses expositions tout au long de l'année. Elle conserve une maquette de l’ensemble, réalisée par Henry et Christiane Frugès en 1967.

Après une longue période d’oubli, pendant laquelle les maisons furent largement modifiées par leurs habitants, la cité est progressivement rénovée par ses nouveaux occupants, souvent passionnés par l'architecte et son projet.

Le lotissement de Pessac est inscrit dans une Zone de Protection du Patrimoine Architectural Urbain et Paysager : des recommandations architecturales simples assurent la sauvegarde de l’ensemble, tout en s'efforçant de lui conserver son caractère initial de « cité d’habitation populaire ».

[EN] Its 50 properties have slowly become a source of pride for the surrounding town of Pessac.

This unique venture was initially commissioned in 1924 by the local industrialist Henry Frugès (1879-1974), whose wealth had been built on the success of his sugar refinery business (later taken over by Béghin-Say, which ceased operations in Bordeaux in 1984). Frugès developed an ambitious plan to house factory workers.

Frugès acquired a large plot of land in the Le Monteil district of Pessac and called on the help of the rising avant-garde urban architect Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris (1887-1975), now famously known as Le Corbusier, to make the dream reality. The pair had already attempted something similar in Lège on the Bassin d’Arcachon (where ten homes had been built for employees of Frugès's packaging branch).

Frugès’s brief for the Pessac estate, Le Corbusier's first large-scale urban project, was simple: “I authorise you to put your theories into practice, however extreme the consequences might be. I would like to achieve conclusive results in a new form of inexpensive living quarters. Pessac must be a laboratory.” In other words, Le Corbusier, working in partnership with his cousin Pierre Janneret, was being given a life-size sandbox to roll out his vision of economic, standardised mass-produced properties which were geometrically sparse, minimalist and functional.

It resulted in what was one of France’s first attempts at social housing, although the initial plan for 135 houses was downsized to the 50 which were delivered in 1926. Six different types of flat-roofed houses were available and all were made up of identically-sized prefabricated modules. Each variant - Arcade, Gratte-ciel (skyscraper), Isolée, Jumelle (twin), Quinconce, Zig-zag - is described in detail here. The surface area of the reinforced concrete houses (the walls of which were just 4 centimetres thick in places) ranged from 75 to 90m² and each comprised an entrance hall, a kitchen, a living room, a bathroom with shower and toilet, and two or three rooms on the upper floors. Innovations included large windows, isothermic walls, suspended gardens and sometimes integrated garages. Outside, Le Corbusier decided to add dashes of colour to brighten up the neighbourhood.

The houses arguably still look modern today so we can only imagine how revolutionary they must have seemed at the time. But they struggled to gain acceptance, including from Frugès’s factory workers themselves, who did not take up residence in the houses; they were deemed too far away from their workplace and difficult to get to. The properties were sold on to private owners at a loss, resulting in a massive financial shortfall for Frugès himself.

Le Corbusier also acknowledged the failure of the venture, underlining nevertheless how versatile the properties were proving to be as they underwent transformations led by their new owners. According to a colleague who once lived in a Cité Frugès property, the outside walls alone were supporting walls, making it possible to infinitely reconfigure the inner layout of the houses.

The estate continued to fall out of favour and the properties began falling into disrepair, until 1973 when a landlord worked hard on restoring his property (an “Arcade” model), which became such a personal source of pride that he applied to have his house listed as an historic monument. This status was granted in 1980 and marked a turn in fortunes for Cité Frugès, which stepped up another gear when the town of Pessac purchased one of the houses (a Gratte-ciel model), before renovating it and turning it into a permanent exhibit which is open to the general public. The museum provides a means of getting a fascinating inside view of Le Corbusier’s 1920s vision.

The turnaround was complete: the estate was finally being celebrated by Pessac itself as an innovative attempt at housing for the masses, and the individual homes became well looked-after and highly desirable commodities on the property market. In this internet age, Cité Frugès has also been given a new lease of life and the estate is set to feature in a crowd-funded documentary led by a collective known as La Machine à Habiter, the name a reference to Le Corbusier's vision of what a house should represent: a "machine for living".
Architect: Le Corbusier

Building Type: Residential

Date Built: 1926

City building is located in: Pessac, France

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