Death of architect Renée Gailhoustet, figure of social housing

She was known for her achievements in favor of social housing. The French architect Renée Gailhoustet died on January 4, 2023 at the age of 93 in one of her buildings in which she lived, in Ivry-sur-Seine (Val-de-Marne). The town councilor, Philippe Bouyssou, announced the death of this famous architect in a press release. Considered a pioneer of social housing, the one who “defended a humanist town planning“, as the mayor recalls, had been commissioned between the end of the 1960s and the 1980s to renovate the city center of Ivry.

A pioneer

Born in 1929 in Oran (Algeria), she studied philosophy and then architecture in Paris. At the time a communist activist, she was passionate about the subject of social housing. “With the aim of contributing to the reflection on the quality of housing in the productivist France of the Trente Glorieuses, she was one of the first women to exercise the profession of architect in her own name, by designing and building ambitious projects. in the outskirts of Paris. First accompanied by Jean Renaudie, then alone, she led a demanding and prolific reflection on the individualization of social housing, refusing the standardized construction of that time.“Culture Minister Rima Abdul Malak said in a statement.”Rather than large complexes dividing the city into sad orthogonal watchtowers, she preferred to design buildings marked by the shape of the triangle, which favor exchanges between the inhabitants, the relationship to the outdoor space and the fluidity of circulation. […] By choosing to organize the space following diversified, varied, surprising and complex paths like life, Renée Gailhoustet will have been able to show that there are a thousand and one ways of inhabiting our world and that the walls of dwellings can free more than lock up.

With his companion at the time, the town planner and architect Jean Renaudie, in the late 1960s they created the “stars” of Ivry, a set of buildings with triangular points in raw concrete. “The first, Raspail, is the most successful because the accommodations are semi-duplex. […] Semi-duplexes were a novelty in Ivry but also in France! Nothing to do with the uniformity of housing within the large housing estates of the time“, she said in an interview with the magazine Ivry my city in 2015.

It notably signed the design of 900 housing units in the Maladrerie district in Aubervilliers (Seine-Saint-Denis), built in the form of concrete pyramids. “A symbol of this imprint forged over time, several of the sets it has built benefit from the Remarkable Contemporary Architecture label and its first construction, the Tour Raspail in Ivry-sur-Seine, was listed in 2022 as a Historic Monument“, recalled the Minister of Culture.

“Housing is not a product”

The one that played with the shapes, volumes and layout of housing, carried the will to build homes that meet the needs of their inhabitants. It also brought nature to the city through patios and terraces. “What I feel is that people are sensitive to the fact that their housing is not a standard housing, is not a product. I’m coming back to this because a few days ago, I heard Agnès Varda saying ‘I’m being told about a film product, I don’t know what it is, it disgusts me’. I must say that it has the same effect on me, the housing product is really something that seems completely contradictory to me. When you work to make housing, the first thing is to respect the people you work for and not to do something that you will make them consume.“, assured Renée Gailhoustet, in a conference held at the Pavillon de l’Arsenal in 1991.

Engaged in the construction of social housing for more than forty years, the architect has been praised many times during her career, nationally and internationally. She received the Royal Academy of Arts Architecture Prize in 2022 for all of his work. “The achievements of Renée Gailhoustet, pioneer of a new approach, go well beyond what is produced everywhere today in social or affordable housing. Her work demonstrates a strong social commitment that brings together generosity, beauty, ecology and inclusion.“, said the architect and president of the jury of the 2022 Architecture Awards, Farshid Moussavi. The same year, Renée Gailhoustet saw herself award the Grand Prize of Honor from the Ministry of Culture. She had also won the Medal of Honor of theAcademy of Architecture in 2018 and the prestigious Grand Prix des arts de Berlin in 2019. The special mention “pioneer” of the Prix des femmes architects was also awarded to him in 2014.

The funeral of Renée Gailhoustet takes place this Monday, January 9, 2023 at 3:30 p.m. in the Parisian cemetery of Ivry.

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