The Daring
Diagonal
Virtual
Museum

A division of the Center
for the Study of Diagonality
in World Culture

Daring Diagonal Virtual Museum
IVRY-SUR-SEINE
JEAN RENAUDIE, Architect
1968
Executed by:
Date:

Jean Renaudie (1925-1981) was a French architect best known for his housing /multi use project in Ivry-sur-Seine, a commune in the southeastern suburbs of Paris. When you first see a photograph of Renaudie’s project, such as in the 1979 publication "Transformations in Modern Architecture," written by Arthur Drexler and published by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, you think you are seeing a diagonal-based design on steroids. This is not a timid urban complex but one so expressive of the diagonality motif that it falls into the category of iconic expression.

Jean Renaudie apprenticed with the famous early 20th century master of concrete construction Auguste Perret. In 1958, Renaudie, with Pierre Riboulet, Gérard Thurnauer, and Jean-Louis Véret, founded l’Atelier de Montrouge. But it was Renaudie alone who was the person responsible for the complete renovation of the Ivry town center in 1968. In light of the starkness and simplicity of its plastic effects, Renaudie’s style is sometimes described as “brutalist,” the label of an architectural design movement of the mid-20th century made famous (in part) through works by the renowned Swiss-born French architect Le Corbusier.

Anton Zoetmulder, who wrote his dissertation on Jean Renaudie, describes Ivry-sur-Seine as resembling concrete mountains composed of stars or triangles. The geometry is pure, but the results are complicated. Zoetmulder’s interest in Renaudie's work derived from his investigation into Dutch Structuralism, which Guus Beumer describes as being "a collectivitist movement" with a "deep humanistic language." The intellectual legacy of the movement is centered around the work of architects such as Aldo van Eyck, Hermann Hertzbergr, Piet Blom, Herman Haan, and Joop van Stigt. The movement had its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s. Beumer goes on to say that the social use of spaces and the social bonds the buildings would encourage were central to the movement’s goals. Consequently, the creation of meaningful social spaces is at the heart of this movement. The Jeanne-Hatchette shopping center brought Renaudie international recognition; he was awarded the Grand Prix National de l’Architecture from the French Minister of Culture for the totality of his creative works. Anton Zoetmulder's dissertation is titled "Jean Renaudie: to give voice to that which was silent."

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