Renée Gailhoustet is a French woman architect and urban planner and a well-known personality since she started her architectural career. She established a strong identity and imprinted her name in the pages of the era, where inking a woman’s recognition was rare. The evolution of her career and recognition has also contributed to the development of architecture. She worked to develop the solutions to social housing propaganda that was raised in that era and later on her contribution to social housing in the Parris area was remarked in the architecture and urban planning works.

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Renée Gailhoustet_©www.dezeen.com

Education and Early life

Gailhoustet pursued philosophy before learning and serving the field of architecture. She studied architecture at Ecole des beaux-art in Parris, under Marcel Lods, graduating in 1961. In 1962 she started her career venture and went to gain exposure to architectural experience in Roland Dubrulle’s firm located in Parris, her initial works included the development of plans for the renovation of the centre of Ivry-sur-Seine. She later contributed to the teamwork on several projects, after which she earned the responsible position and title of architect together with Jean Reanaudie.

Besides her remarkable works in architecture and urban planning, she also dedicated herself to the authorship of books. She wrote and published books discussing the phases of architecture two of them are: Eloge du Logement (In praise of housing, 1993; Des racines pour la Ville (Roots for the City), 1998. She also taught at the Ecole Spéciale d’Architecture from 1973 to 1975.

Architectural Venture

In the time zone of the late 1960s and mid-1980s, Gailhaustet’s architectural venture developed in Ivy and she designed many buildings, such as the Raspail, Lénine, Jeanne-Hachette, and Casanova towers, the Spinoza complex, and the terraced apartment buildings, Le Liégat and Marat. She also established her identity in the form of urban planning with her designs for the developments on the two islands of Le-Reunion. In her architectural establishment, she focussed on house scarcity issues emerging and rising at the time. She consulted alternative solutions to massive housing construction through her designs.

In 1964, she entrenched her firm, together with Jean Reanudie. Being a principal architect, she reproached the planning and construction of Ivry-sur-Seine and implemented the terrace designs in the plans. Her contribution to architecture is more toward buildings with open spaces, establishing a new standard for town planning and social housing developments rather than constructing huge and iconic complexes and high-rise towers.

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Le Liegat_©www.dezeen.com
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Ivry-sur-Seine complex_©www.bricsys.com
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The Spinoza complex_©www.archdaily.com

Philosophy and Design approach

In her architectural venture, she designed and worked more on projects, and public housing developments, integrating shops, facilities, offices, public spaces, and housing units into the same macrostructure. Gailhoustet focused on the geometry of forms to achieve a more specific output of architectural and urban intervention. She followed her design philosophy along with the consultation of Jean Renaudie in her projects, the development of the La Maladrerie district at Aubervilliers which was completed in 1984; she clubbed together an old people’s home, artists’ studios, and shops, blending into flat surfaces. Her design approach for the housing development was to create a multifunctional space by incorporating options for every design element used in the housing or town planning. She implemented her design ideas on the belief that “each inhabitant can use the town as he wishes.”

Another such design specification is; studied in her project Ivry-sur-Seine designed on the principle of staggered construction, the architecture of this project was designed to enable the political and social agenda of building the capability for exchanges and well-being. The project has a variety of spaces including duplex apartments engulfed with double-height spaces inside, vast openings and cut-outs, and unexpected yet astonishing geometry with the detailing of geometrical facades, services, and landscapes arranged with the functionality of pathways and gardens. The idea of blending angular geometrical boundaries of building merges with its contrast of organically shaped landscape plans was the evolution of Corbusier’s typology of grouping staggered plans and terraces. The floor of terraces and rooftops were constructed with cultivable earth, which enables plants to grow out on the edges of hard concrete surfaces. This design step incorporated the idea of vegetation and sustainability in building construction in that period.

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Conceptual drawing of the complex_©www.bricsys.com
Model of Ensemble Marat, Ivry-sur-Seine_©www.frac-centre.fr

Recognitions and Awards

Renée earned her legacy and established an identity in architecture with her vision and works. She engulfed and introduced many design perspectives and design solutions for the upcoming problems rising with the demands of the growing population, which were imperceptible in those days for practicing architects. In the year 2019, she was awarded the honor of Großer Kunstpreis Berlin (Berlin Grand Art Prize, which she earned at the age of 89. In the year 2022 London’s Royal Academy announced Renee Gailhoustet to win its prize and describes Gailhoustet as the fourth winner of the Royal Academy Architecture Prize, which “celebrates under-recognized contributions” to architecture. Farshid Moussavi being the chair of RA’s award jury defines the achievement of the French architect to be established as social or affordable housing anywhere today.

References: 

  1. Barfield, R., 2019. Renée Gailhoustet – A life’s work | Bricsys Blog. [online] Bricsys.com. Available at: https://www.bricsys.com/blog/renee-gailhoustet-a-lifes-work
  2. Finney, A., 2022. https://www.dezeen.com/2022/05/31/renee-gailhoustet-architecture-prize-winner-2022-royal-academy-architecture-prize/. [online] www. dezeen.com. Available at: https://www.dezeen.com/2022/05/31/renee-gailhoustet-architecture-prize-winner-2022-royal-academy-architecture-prize/
  3. Frac-centre.fr. 2022. Frac centre. [online] Available at: https://www.frac-centre.fr/_en/art-and-architecture-collection/gailhoustet-renee-316.
  4. En.wikipedia.org. 2021. Renée Gailhoustet – Wikipedia. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ren%C3%A9e_Gailhoustet
Author

Divyanshi Sahu is a young ,passionate architect and co-author of book –“philosophies from not so philosophers ” the connectivity of her thoughts with the architectural diversity , drives her to explore and write more about the variations of the field.

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