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Death of Renée Gailhoustet

By 6 January 2023June 13th, 2023No Comments

Renée Gailhoustet, a leading figure on the French architectural scene and one of the few female architects of her generation, died on January 4, 2023 in her apartment in Ivry-sur-Seine.

© Valérie Sadoun

Soft poetry of concrete

Combative and committed, Renée Gailhoustet made a name for herself with her social housing projects – a type of housing that interested very few architects at the time. Her large-scale projects integrate housing, offices, shops, facilities and public spaces, with the aim of creating a new framework for social and community life. His assertive architectural style breaks with the modernist Corbusian heritage of large housing estates, bars and towers, and implements a geometric arrangement of forms, driven by a quest for well-being for users, materialized by the generosity and luminosity of living volumes, and the multiplication of collective and private planted outdoor spaces, in a humanistic and ecological approach.

Renée Gailhoustet delivered several emblematic housing buildings in Ivry-sur-Seine: the Raspail and Lenin towers between 1963 and 1968, the Spinoza complex between 1966 and 1973, the Liégat complex between 1971 and 1986 and the Marat complex between 1971 and 1986. In Aubervilliers, Renée Gailhoustet designed La Maladrerie between 1975 and 1986, and built a 35-unit housing complex in Villejuif between 1978 and 1981. Her agency closed for good in 1999.

Le Liégat, Ivry-sur-Seine © Renée Gailhoustet architect

Born in Oran, Algeria, in 1929, Renée Gailhoustet first studied philosophy, then entered the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts, where she studied under Marcel Lods. She graduated in 1961 with a study of multi-family housing, and the following year became project manager for the renovation of downtown Ivry at Roland Dubrulle’s studio. In 1964, she founded her own practice and was appointed Chief Architect of the Ivry operation in 1969, where she collaborated with architect Jean Renaudie.In 2022, the Tour Raspail in Ivry-sur-Seine, the first project of his career, was listed as a historic monument, and Le Liégat was awarded the Label Architecture Contemporaine Remarquable. The Maladrerie district had already been awarded the ACR label in 2008.Since 1999, Renée Gailhoustet’s archives have been held by the FRAC Centre-Val de Loire in Orléans, which is developing an international collection dedicated to experimental and utopian architecture in the 20th century.In recent years, Renée Gailhoustet’s work has been recognized both in France and internationally: the jury of the Grand Prix national de l’architecture 2022 awarded her the Grand Prix d’honneur last October, the Académie d’architecture awarded her the Médaille d’honneur in 2018, the Royal Academy of Arts awarded her its Prix d’architecture for her “extraordinary contribution to social housing in France […]”, and the Berlin Academy awarded her work the Grand Prix des Arts in 2019.

West facade, Tour Raspail, 1966 – © FRAC Centre – Donation Renée Gailhoustet

3rd floor plan, Building H, Le Liégat, 1978 – © FRAC Centre – Donation Renée Gailhoustet

Plan of the nursery school, La Maladrerie, 1975-1986 – © FRAC Centre – Donation Renée Gailhoustet

Sources: Ministry of Culture; FRAC Centre; AMC architecture; Le Moniteur; Radio France