Barre du Cristal, Cité Roguet… Are the concrete giants of the 1960s disfiguring the city?

Buildings that do not leave people from Toulouse indifferent – 20 Minutes

  • In the landscape, we only see these buildings. Massive, too high, not harmonious, failure, etc. are the adjectives which come back to evoke these constructions which in the end have become emblems of our cities. The Eiffel Tower is one of the most obvious examples. In the Archimoche? Series, 20 Minutes is interested in buildings that do not leave you indifferent, that stand out or even that some qualify as “ugly”.
  • In Toulouse, the huge building bar of the Cristal and the Roguet city embody the town planning of the 1960s.
  • In addition to this emblematic Arenas vessel, other witnesses of this period are today seen with (at least) dubious eyes.

Boomers have had a bad press in recent years. A valid observation in town planning: when it comes time to designate the “ugliest buildings in the Toulouse metropolitan area”, Internet users from 20 Minutes have mainly chosen concrete vessels from the 1950s and 1960s. First of all, the bar of the Cristal aux Arènes building, which emerged from the ground in 1961 when the Cité Roguet, second in this list, ended nearby.

“We have to go back to the context of the time,” says architect Joanne Pouzenc. The city center was dilapidated, there was not necessarily access to the bathrooms in the apartments, the toilets were often outside. “These buildings today decried” represented modernism, indicates the director of the House of Occitanie-Pyrenees Architecture (MAOP). In addition, the construction processes were extremely fast. “

Strong population growth to absorb

An essential aspect when it came to absorbing the rapid growth of the population, between rural exodus, arrival of returnees from Algeria and immigrant labor. “In the 1960s, we had buildings focused on function, use, which were not formalist,” explains architect Jean-Baptiste Friot.

Aesthetics are not sacrificed. It is simply not a priority. The philosophy is inspired in particular by the work of Le Corbusier (1887-1965), father of the famous Radiant City of Marseille “with a reflection on more vertical cities, which would make it possible to free from the influence on the ground to make gardens” .

“A break in the city”

However, as the Toulouse specialist observes, the initial idea has been misguided, “the elements of comfort removed” for the sake of speed and economy. The new mastodons, such as the Cristal (230 meters long, 15 floors) or the C building of the HLM Roguet City (65 m high), have also created “a break in the city”.

“I don’t think it was well experienced by the people of that period. Toulouse then still has a certain homogeneity and tac, we end up with these hyphenation. When you see the period photo of the Cristal, there are still the arenas, then this bar and behind all the small houses with their tiled roofs. Well, today, these areas that were unique are drowned in a shapeless whole. The city no longer has a beginning or an end. “

If the Cristal and the Cité Roguet have points in common, they are not twins, according to Joanne Pouzenc. “At the Cristal, where all the apartments are through, we end up with something extremely imposing, but there is no mix of programs inside the building, which exists in the Cité Roguet. When I was little, the Post Office was part of this set and fascinated me. It doesn’t work at all. The problem is the state of disrepair. The maintenance is catastrophic. “

The Carmes market-parking lot is perfectly preserved, even if it also dates from the 1960s. It is the work of a prestigious agency (Candilis-Josic-Woods). Yet many Toulouse residents do not appreciate this piece of concrete placed in an ocean of bricks, in the historic center. And they don’t forgive him either for having grown on the ruins of a splendid 19th century metal hall.

“Today, it seems completely delusional, gets carried away Jean-Baptiste Friot. When, as an architect, you know how difficult it is to achieve slightly beautiful details, you will think twice before farting something so magnificent. Okay, now that it’s here, I would find it completely stupid to delete it. “OK it’s ugly, but it’s convenient, retorts Joanne Pouzenc. “I have rarely used such convenient parking. The adjacent building which houses the town planning services is also quite exceptional. “

La Cartoucherie, explosive subject

Internet users 20 Minutes do not indulge in fasting. Take the Cartoucherie eco-district, near the Zénith, where all the buildings have not yet emerged. Many consider it to be “architectural junk”. “Me, I find everything atrocious”, slice Jean-Baptiste Friot.

“We will see in a few years how it evolves, tempers his colleague. There is a lot of 17 housing units that are part of the largest participatory operation in France. People take care of their habitat, but also of each other. I’m sure this little batch will age well. “

“It only needs to be old for it to be beautiful”

But if not, what look will we cast in a few decades on the buildings that our contemporaries qualify as “ugly”? “In all areas, it is enough that it is old for it to be beautiful, launches, not without irony, Jean-Baptiste Friot. Look: the ’80s were known to be atrocious in terms of dress style and today all young people dress like this again! “

To have a good face, the buildings of the Trente Glorieuses will however have to undergo a facelift. “In Bordeaux, particularly in the Grand Parc district, the architects Lacaton & Vassal worked on the rehabilitation of large complexes and large bars from the 1970s, notes Joanne Pouzenc. The Crystal would lend itself perfectly to these operations. There, all of a sudden, everyone would want to live there. »Ugly or not …

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