The Choux de Créteil (Val-de-Marne), also called “ears of corn”, are a large architectural ensemble created by Gérard Grandval. He received the “Heritage of the twentieth century” label from the Ministry of Culture. Ten round towers of 15 floors are the essential element of this great ensemble.
Their shape, similar to a cauliflower because of the balconies, gives its nickname to this neighborhood. These balconies, in the idea of the architect, were intended to be planted, which would have changed the appearance of the buildings supporting garden, according to the seasons.
Architect: Gérard Grandval
Drawing of balconies: Maurice Calka
Construction: 1969 – 1974.
On Construit 15 maisons-fleurs à Créteil
article de 1965 – Elle
To invent house-flowers is difficult. Convincing financiers, contractors, municipal commissions, official architects to plant fifteen flower houses in the heart of a suburban area without a story is a miracle. It is done. There was a miracle in Creteil. In a few months, the first petals of gigantic concrete dahlias will come out of the ground. The magician: an architect overwhelmed with diplomas (including a Grand Prix of Rome) but who made a point of forgetting very quickly what had been taught him at the Beaux-Arts.
Gerard Grandval is the inventor of shell houses, polyester cylinders, which are mounted in three days and plantsurface anywhere; and offices – cocoons, multicolored cells arranged like huge plastic cubes in a closed room. The directorial office is a cube like the others but in Plexiglas: the walls, the tables, the telephones are transparent. In the office-aquarium, the boss sees everything and all see the boss.
The buildings-flowers of Créteil are, at first sight, even more crazy than the offices-cocoons, the directorial aquarium and the villa-cylinders. Imagine a kind of monstrous dahlia 50 meters in diameter and 15 meters high. In the center of the flower. On the first three floors: a ramp-parking where are parked the cars of the tenants. Elevators and stairs starting from each of these three first floors (in architectural vocabulary “level”) serve the whole. Above this car silo, a terrace, a hanging garden, trees, real flowers.
Contre la ville-casier.
Around the garage in a circle, forming a vast crown: the apartments. All except some rooms facing the outside. All, without exception, are equipped with a balcony-petal, large concrete shell reaching almost two meters in its greatest height and fifty centimeters at its ends. This unusual but very studied layout allows the occupant of the flower-building to have, on the right and left of his balcony, a view of the city and, in the center, a kind of isolated and protected oasis of peace. ‘outside. Sheltered from its petal, the tenant of houses-dalhia will live as in a winter garden in the open.
Why flower-houses, flower-cities? Gérard Grandval answers: Because the towns-lockers are sinister. I call the locker cities these cubic sets, straight, clean, without mystery. The flower is the anti-cube. I was told that my buildings-dahlias looked more like cabbages. I have nothing against cabbages. I prefer cabbage houses to those big, perpendicular, stupid and bland masses. It is necessary to build fuzzy and crazy, vegetal and moving. Above all, beware of the functional. The functional is constantly denied. Saint-Tropez is famous, is not it? Well, it’s a perfectly functional anti-functional harbor of sinners. And Megève? It is a Savoyard village not more functional than Saint-Tropez.
Today, it is easy to make the anti-cube, anti-locker. Beautifying does not cost more than doing ugly. Why do we persist in building “cube” instead of building “flower”? Because it’s easier and easier. And also because we have forgotten or despised this old Latin genius called lyricism.
Delivered in May 1974, these buildings are named “Les Epis de Maïs”. The housing group is called “City of the 21st century”. However, the economic crisis does not help, these homes – which cause more scandal than curiosity – encounter difficulties to sell. In February 1976, 300 dwellings remain to be marketed. A shocking advertising campaign on “cabbages” to boost sales will definitively give this name to these buildings. (PSS)
photo: Jours de France – Février 1973