Brutalism’s Rise And Fall, As Told Through The Architecture Of Paris

A new map of Paris’s iconic Brutalist buildings charts the city’s uneasy relationship with the style.

Telecommunications ufo by nigel green
Telecommunications UFO by Nigel Green

In Créteil, a southeastern suburb of Paris, 10 towers that look like brussels sprout stalks rise in the cityscape. Architect Gérard Grandval designed these cylindrical apartment buildings in the mid-1970s, and the concrete balconies for each unit seem like they’re just barely clinging to the facade. Locals nicknamed the futuristic-looking development Les Choux de Créteil, which translates to “the cabbages.”

Grandval’s structures are one of 42 locations featured in Brutalist Paris, the latest addition to Blue Crow Media’s growing roster of maps for architourists with a soft spot for the hard-edged architectural style.

Paris, at least the heart of it, is frozen in time, composed of Haussman-era grand boulevards, frilly Beaux Arts buildings, and sculptural Art Nouveau infrastructure. While architecturally restrained for much of the 20th century, the city in the ’60s and ’70s experienced a Brutalist boom. Experimental design from famous architects like Oscar Niemeyer, Marcel Breuer, Claude Parent, Harry Seidler, and Le Corbusier appeared on select sites in the city and greater metropolitan area. While cities like London erected Brutalist buildings to rapidly rebuild from World War II damage, and Washington, D.C., government adopted them to express its seriousness, Paris had a more complex and nuanced relationship with the style that’s tied up with Modernism’s utopian vision–and the eventual disillusionment with its ideology. […]