Postcards from Bobigny

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 22.17.35The aesthetic criminal Candilis

Dalrymple visits Bobigny on the outskirts of Paris to view the cité de l’Etoile by the architect Georges Candilis (erected 1962). He writes:

These ugly, soulless, prefabricated concrete blocks have been declared by the authorities to be part of the ‘patrimony of the 20th century’ and therefore as being too culturally important to demolish or replace.

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 22.16.57The people

who have been trapped into living in these concrete ant-heaps have protested vigorously at the designation: they know in their own persons what it is to live out the social-cum-futuristic fantasies of nth-rate French architects like Candilis, and they are demanding demolition. The only thing to do with such architecture, as far as they are concerned, is to grind it into the dust and try to forget that it ever existed.

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 22.15.27Dalrymple believes that

one or two such buildings ought to be deliberately preserved, to remind us of the aesthetic incompetence, lack of imagination or even criminality, of such as Candilis.

But

there is a question that haunts me: if the cité de l’Etoile were pulled down as it deserves, would it be replaced by anything better? If what is built nowadays (that is to say half a century later) is anything to go by, the answer must be equivocal. I don’t think anything quite as bad would be built, but almost certainly it would not be much better; almost certainly it would look gimcrack and not as if anyone really intended it to last longer than thirty years.

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 22.42.36The French

have lost altogether the knack of building something that someone in the future might look upon with pleasure. They are not the only European nation to have done so; but their architects are definitely among the worst and most incompetent in the world.

(2012)

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 22.44.19

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