The Hanging Gardens of Ivry-sur-Seine

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Downtown Ivry-sur-Seine
(c) Discover Paris!

In May 2010, I went on a guided walk with the Conseil d’architecture, d’urbanisme et de l’environnement du Val-de-Marne (CAUE 94), an organization whose objective is to promote the quality of architecture, urbanism, and the environment. This particular walk was called “Vues plongeantes sur la Vallée de la Seine” (Plunging views of the Seine Valley), and was the opportunity to go to the top of a number of tall buildings for some panoramas of the area that lies just outside of Paris.

One of the buildings that we entered was the Lenin Tower in the town of Ivry-sur-Seine, where we took the elevator up to the roof garden. The garden is normally off limits to individuals, but we had special permission to enter as a group. From the top, we had a spectacular view of the city, including an amazing sight: the hanging gardens of the apartment blocks and commercial complex of downtown Ivry. During the 1960s, this area was a run-down neighborhood. The city engaged two architects, Renée Gailhouster and Jean Renaudie, to renovate the area, and the project that they devised took about twenty-five years to complete!

The apartment complexes are in the shapes of stars whose points jut into space. On the Internet, I found one writer who declares that these buildings colonize the territory like a rhizome; another says that the architects conceived of the town plan as a combinatorial arrangement. (Cobinatorics is a branch of mathematics that studies the enumeration, combination, and permutation of sets of elements.)

In 1978, the French Ministry of Culture awarded Jean Renaudie the Grand Prize of Architecture for his life work.

Additional information about this architectural project can be found on the blog entitled Brian Goes to Town.

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