Between hell and heaven.
The political origins of the glorious misery: grands ensembles of Parisian banlieue through Cité des 4 000, 1929-1975.



>read the full paper here


The baby boom of the ‘50s/’60s, the exodus from the countryside, massive immigration – all this provoked a significant housing shortage that required a great development of the social housing system in afterwar France. The importance of the emerging challenges gave birth to the policy of mass housing units – les grands ensembles - that has forever transformed the landscape of Parisian suburbs.

Along with the other cités, the construction of the Quatre Mille has benefited from the technology of prefabrication that allowed to raise homes in an unprecedented rapid way. The coupling of technological, social, economic, and political circumstances occurring at that time, resulted in the temptation to exclude unwanted social tissues from the city of Paris. Erecting the 4 000, apart from addressing the housing shortage, has consequently effected in vast multidimensional segregation of the inhabitants, both within a neighborhood and a building scale that later indirectly provoked chronic social problems.

The thesis’ research is based on governmental and municipal documents, derived from the Municipal Archives of La Courneuve, as well as on archival articles from local press, extracts from the national television, or scientific works such as books, articles, or reports. Firstly, the thesis outlines the socio-political situation occurring in France in the 1950s/1960s and the development of social housing in Parisian banlieues that finally gave birth to the cités of grands ensembles. The latter part of the paper discuses case study of the Quatre Mille, concerning its history, architectural aspects as well as the first inhabitants’ profile. Eventually, the research raises hypothetical reasons for the physical and societal decay of the 4 000. Concluding, the thesis argues that the realization of Cité des 4 000 was an example of adapting modernist ideals, such as wellbeing or hygienics, to serving the very particular political agenda, which is class segregation.

maciej.moszant@gmail.com  | +48 506 174 841  |  © 2021 maciej moszant