Claude Parent (26 February 1923 – 27 February 2016), born in Neuilly-sur-Seine, was a distinguished French architect and member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts. Parent’s concept of ‘Fonction Oblique’ has seen a resurgence among contemporary architects. He fought for recognition as an architect after leaving the Beaux-Arts school without a diploma, earning acknowledgment from the French Architectural Board in the mid-60s. His work is being rediscovered by a new generation, with architects like Jean Nouvel considering him a significant influence. Internationally, figures like Daniel Libeskind, Zaha Hadid, and Frank Gehry recognize his impact and the importance of the Oblique Function in architecture.

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Portrait of Claude Parent_© Emmanuel Goulet, 2014

Function Oblique

In 1962, Claude Parent encountered philosopher Paul Virilio, sparking the development of ‘Fonction Oblique’ or Oblique Architecture. This concept advocated for buildings characterized by ramps, slopes, and angles, minimizing walls to prioritize space. Parent applied this theory to the Pushya Hospital, crafting a concrete structure seemingly rotated at a sharp angle from the ground. Initially deemed eccentric and impractical, Oblique Function challenged traditional architectural norms. Rejecting orthogonality, the theory emphasized surface over space, departing from modernist principles. It revolutionized spatial experiences, considering the dynamic interactions between ramps and the human body, fostering new social dynamics and urban landscapes. 

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Le Potentialisme_© Claude Parent Archives

Maison de I’Iran

Location: Paris, France

Year: 1967

Function: Collective housing, education

The Iran House, one of Claude Parent’s remarkable architectural achievements, stands amidst a diverse array of styles within the Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris. Conceived in 1920 as a humanist vision, it blends educational ideals from medieval university colleges and English garden cities. Serving as student housing funded by foreign governments, the Cité assigned Claude Parent to oversee its construction. Situated between Germany House and the House of Arts and Crafts, Iran House is the site’s inaugural structure. Adjacent is a two-story building for communal use. The design, adapted to the former quarry site, features a folded and welded sheet metal frame with beams forming three black-painted porticos.

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Site Plan_© Frac Centre-Val de Loire

Noteworthy architectural elements include two four-story blocks suspended from the framework and a double spiral exterior fire escape. Abandoned by Iran during the Shah’s regime in 1972, the building transitioned to the Cité Internationale Universitaire. Today, it houses the Avicenna Foundation and has held a place on the French Supplementary Historic Monument List since 2008.

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Exterior view of the Maison de I’Iran_©

Maison Bordeaux Le Pecq

Location: Bois Le Roy, France

Year: 1966

Function: Private house

Crafted by architect Claude Parent between 1963 and 1965, this residence stands as a testament to modernist architecture, distinguished by its angled roofs and profound heritage significance. Encompassing 400 square meters on a single level, it boasts a spacious 150-square-meter reception area opening onto a terrace. The main section features a former workshop, dining room, and living room with a fireplace, while a mezzanine hosts an office library. Nestled in Bois-le-Roy near the Croth forest, it enjoys a serene environment along the Eure valley, just 90 kilometers from Paris, reachable within an hour from Porte Maillot.

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Floor plan of Maison Bordeaux Le Pecq_© Adagp, Paris

Claude Parent’s expertise in reinforced concrete is evident throughout, with exposed surfaces reflecting the dynamic roof lines. Meticulously designed window frames seamlessly blend indoor and outdoor spaces, while meticulous details like the wooden frieze, metal railing, and flooring treatments contribute to an atmosphere conducive to both creativity and relaxation.

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Exterior view of Maison Bordeaux Le Pecq_© Laurent Kronental Photographer, 2019

Sainte-Bernadette-du-Banlay Church

Location: Nevers, France

Year: 1963

Function: Temple

The Church of Sainte-Bernadette du Banlay, constructed between 1963 and 1966 in Nevers, embodies a unique fusion of architectural philosophies pioneered by Paul Virilio and Claude Parent. Virilio’s exploration of bunkers from the Atlantic Wall and Parent’s investigations into fracture and tipping over converge in this striking design. Two massive masses extend from a central pillar, creating a pronounced fracture, or “fault line,” as Parent describes it. This fracture serves as the project’s cornerstone, allowing for a reinterpretation of space’s unity and discontinuity with equal tension. 

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Floor plan of Sainte-Bernadette-du-Banlay Church_© Claude Parent Archives

Dedicated to Bernadette Soubirous, the church draws inspiration from the grotto where she experienced her first apparitions. It is conceived as a “cryptic space,” evoking monolithic, hermetic qualities that resonate with a society haunted by the memories of World War II and the looming specter of the Cold War. Virilio’s reflections on bunker architecture, likening them to ancient funerary structures, infuse the space with a sense of sacredness juxtaposed with militaristic undertones. In Sainte-Bernadette, the language of military fortification converges with the symbolism of religious introspection and ascension, offering a complex narrative of refuge, origin, and transcendence amidst the anxieties of the modern era.

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Exterior view of Sainte-Bernadette-du-Banlay Church_©
Villa Drusch

Location: Versailles, France

Year: 1963

Function: Residence

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Exterior view of the Villa Dursh, Versailles_© Christian Schaulin, OfHouses

Claude Parent, a prominent figure in modern architecture, is renowned for his collaboration with Paul Virilio, resulting in the groundbreaking “Oblique Function” theory. Among his notable works, the Drusch Villa, created between 1963 and 1969, epitomizes this theory’s application. Using concrete extensively, a hallmark of Parent’s designs, the villa defies traditional Euclidean principles, embracing oblique lines to create a dynamic interplay of spaces marked by contrast and instability. Set on a single edge, the structure appears as an inverted concrete cube, enhancing its visual impact.

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Sketch of the Drush Villa, Versailles_© Claude Parent Archives

Internally, concrete dominates, accentuated by strategic openings and aluminum surfaces that welcome natural light. Unique design elements, like overhead light entering through curved ceilings, juxtapose the structure’s volumetric solidity. Designed for industrialist Gaston Drush, the villa showcases Parent’s commitment to challenging architectural norms, offering a compelling example of his avant-garde approach to spatial design.

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Section of the house._© Claude Parent Archives
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Plan of the house_© Claude Parent Archives

Venice 1996 Architecture Biennale

Frédéric Migayrou, then director/curator at the FRAC Centre in Orléans, curated the French Pavilion at the 1996 Venice Architecture Biennale. His visionary approach established a crucial link between Claude Parent’s oeuvre and contemporary architecture, shedding light on Parent’s historical significance and his influence on younger architects. Migayrou’s efforts brought Parent’s legacy to the forefront, highlighting his pivotal role in shaping architectural discourse. Parent’s impact through their engagement with his work. Migayrou’s Pavilion showcased Parent’s disruptive influence, positioning him as a catalyst for the transition from modernism to more innovative contemporary architecture.

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Sketch of the Monolith Fracture, Venice Biennale, 1996_© Claude Parent Archives
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Monolith Fracture, Venice Biennale, 1996_© Claude Parent Archives

The collaboration between Parent, Decq, and Cornette resulted in a transformative Pavilion design, with Parent conceiving the grand entrance and Decq and Cornette orchestrating the exhibition’s layout and scenography. Their collective effort earned them the prestigious Biennale Golden Lion, underscoring the significance of their contribution to architectural discourse and practice. 

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Monolithe Fracture, Venice Biennale, 1996_© Gilles Ehrmann

“What would it be like… if the space were understood more playfully, more freely, if movement and being in a space could mean climbing, reclining, sliding?” -Claude Parent 032C magazine, 2010


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Subika is a passionate architect and dedicated artist, who merges creativity with purpose. Eager to push the boundaries of architecture, She aspires to create spaces that leave a positive imprint on the world. Her medium extends beyond blueprints, finding expression through the artistry of pen and ink.