Brutalist Paris: discover Paris beyond Haussmann

MyFrenchLife™ - - Parisian Brutalist Buildings - Haussmann - Paris Architecture - Brutalist Paris

Paris is a city recognised and adored for its audacious wide boulevards and charming balconies. Yet beyond the celebrated Haussmann architecture, it’s also the city of modernity, where it’s possible to discover the brassier and equally charming architectural gems of Parisian Brutalist buildings.

Brutalist architecture is something not usually associated with Paris, but in fact béton brut (raw concrete) is very much at the heart of the city’s urban design and history.

Brutalist Paris: beyond Haussmann beginnings

The Paris Museum of Urbanism and Architecture, Pavillon de l’Arsenal, is currently holding an exposition entitled ‘Paris MyFrenchLife™ - - Parisian Brutalist Buildings - Haussmann - Paris Architecture - Brutalist ParisHaussmann’,  which explores the architectural legacy we experience in the streets of Paris today.

The city planning of the 19th century left Paris utterly transformed in time for the outbreak of the First World War. The uniform and efficient manner of Haussmannisation gave Paris one of the highest rates of city ‘walkability‘ in the world.

Despite the beauty and grandeur of this the Haussmannian style, it is exciting to embrace the French concept of the flâneur and wander beyond the centre of the capital to discover other unconventional and unique takes on Parisian architecture.

Post-war architecture: Brutalism and Modernism

MyFrenchLife™ - - Parisian Brutalist Buildings - Haussmann - Paris Architecture - Brutalist ParisParis is the city of modernity, but in a more adventurous sense than the 19th century definition. The 1950s to 1970s saw the flourishing of Modernist and Brutalist architecture as a fresh take on space and order.

The term Brutalism originates from the French word for ‘raw’, brut.

Buildings of this nature certainly possess raw, bold and angular forms, with their philosophy linked with a socialist utopian ideology, perhaps a response to the Haussmann’ investment-orientated principals.

Brutalist Paris buildings

Brutalist Paris can be found a little further from the city centre, with the most striking gems situated in the outer arrondissements and the banlieues, particularly Nanterre and Noisy-le-Grand.

This is part of the joy of exploration, to turn away from the tourist track and embrace the French spirit of psychogeography; a playful drifting around urban environments.

Some of my favourite wanderings have taken me to the radical shapes and structures of the residential 19th arrondissement, particularly Les Orgues de Flandre and Cité Curial-Cambrai. The urban landscape in these areas is so different from the classical Haussmann boulevards, yet their outlines lurk in the shadows.

Brutalist Paris is worth exploring as it serves as a break from the bustling city centre but even more for its rich and radical architectural, political history and also because from those vantage points you will gain wonderful views of the varied skyline.

MyFrenchLife™ - - Parisian Brutalist Buildings - Haussmann - Paris Architecture - Brutalist Paris

Do you appreciate Brutalist Paris and its buildings? Do you have any tips of where to see interesting Parisian architecture? Let us know in the comments below!

Images courtesy of Molly Russell


About the Contributor

Molly Russell

As a French and English literature student, I am fascinated by French culture, from arts and politics to vin et fromage. I am particularly interested in the architecture and urban history of Paris, where I recently completed my year abroad studying at La Sorbonne IV.

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  1. Kathy Douthit Jul 26, 2017 at 12:36 PM - Reply

    “Do you appreciate Brutalist Paris and it’s buildings?” “It’s” is “it is”. Its is the possessive form.

    • Judy MacMahon Jul 26, 2017 at 1:43 PM - Reply

      Oops you are so correct Kathy. Corrected 🙂 ‘its’ is the possessive of the neuter pronoun ‘it’. Thanks for pointing that out. Which are your favourite brutalist buildings in Paris?

      • Kathy Douthit Jul 26, 2017 at 2:06 PM - Reply

        Sorry, I’m a grammar freak. I lived in the Allier, in a small village called Couzon. I only know Paris in a limited way. I’m not a lover of big cities. It’s too bad that people don’t know the real France.

  2. Kirsten (KT) Trengove Jul 29, 2017 at 7:41 PM - Reply

    Merci pour l’article, Molly, je l’ai lu avec intérêt. Pouvez-vous identifier les bâtiments qui apparaissent, svp?

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