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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Chicken Coops and Machines of Interminable Errors: A History of the Grands Ensembles in Parisian Suburbs


The grands ensembles, rows of high-rise public housing units constructed in and around major French cities following World War II, were anticipated as the “miracle solution” for a catastrophic housing shortage. Yet they have often been blamed for a range of social ills, and two times since their construction have been the backdrop of violent youth riots. This paper pieces together the history of the grands ensembles through an examination of the emergence of public housing in France, the transformation of the construction industry, and the philosophical and aesthetic influences of the Modernist movement.

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