Slab, point-access
Bassompierre, Joseph, & Paul de Rutté & Paul Sirvin | Châtenay-Malabry (Paris), France | 1927-1960's
Image of Butte-Roug...
Curving slab, south facade, Paul Sirvin, c. 1950

ArchitectBassompierre, Joseph, & Paul de Rutté & Paul Sirvin
CityChâtenay-Malabry (Paris)
Address(Robinson stop on RER, B2) Ave. Division Leclerc/Route du Plessis Piquet/Route de Saint Leu/Route de la Corneille/Place J.B. Corot
Building TypeSlab, point-access
Number of DwellingsNA
Date Built1927-1960's
Dwelling Typesflats
No. Floors2-10
Section Typeflats
Exterior Finish
plaster, metal windows, metal shutters,
Construction Typemasonry/RC frame
Ancillary Servicesshops, schools, community facilities

Following the English examples of Garden City planning in the early part of the century, various Grand Paris new town projects were discussed for the Paris region during this time. Although none of these projects were built in the period following WWI, several smaller garden city projects were built in the suburbs south of Paris for the Office public d'habitationns e la Seine (Departmental Public Housing Office). These early cité-jardin communities are the French versions of similar European garden city developments in Frankfurt and Amsterdam. Part of a much larger proposal for a Garden City project designed for a competition in 1919 by Joseph Bassompierre and Paul de Rutté, the Cité-jardin de la Butte Rouge, was built at Châtenay-Malaby in several stages between 1927 & the 1960?s. Several similar garden suburbs were built in the Paris region during this time including nearby Plessis-Robinson, Suresnes, just west of Blois de Boulogne, Les Lias on the east and Grenevillers north of Paris. Bossompierre and Paul de Rutté were known for an earlier competiton for habitations a bon marché designed for the City Housing Office in 1914 and built in 1919 on rue Brillat-Savarin in Paris. De Rutté was also known the model of an ideal mountain village (Le Village dan la Montagne) that was exhibited in the 1907 Salon. Complete with an electric train, this picturesque village can be seen as a version of Geddes garden city notions of ideal suburban communities. Between 1909 and 1922, Bassompierre and Rutté continued to develop this fascination with the garden city imagery of picturesque villages with proposals for Drancy and Strasbourg. Paul Sirvin, who was later added to the design team at the request of the Socialist mayor of Suresnes, Henri Sellier, is also associated with these projects which were illustrated with renderings of Hampstead-like cottages, streets and village greens (see Francoise Hamon, "Paul de Rutté, De La villégiature á la cité-jardin", Monuments Historiques, no. 189, Sept-Oct, 1993, pp. 47-51.)

Châtenay-Malabry is a stop on the suburban rail line in the rolling countryside south of Paris. La Butte rouge was built along the western edge of the older town and borders the Bois de Verriéres. Like other garden city prototypes, Butte rouge is a loose organization of meandering streets, public open spaces and an arrangement of 2-5 story flat-roofed blocks containing small working class dwellings. Sometimes the buildings are simply organized as independent blocks along the curving streets and at other times they form a more defined system of interior courtyards. The landscape is quite overgrown and the impression is one of simple, cubic blocks with rear gardens loosely dispersed in a quite lavish natural landscape. In addition to the apartments the development contains some shops, schools and other community services.

The planning of Butte-rouge was halted after 1929, continued in a second phase between 1948-1950, and added to again in the 1960's. The change in the building design clearly follows the change in periods from the modest groups of 2, 4 or 6, 2-story buildings with rear gardens built in the 1920's to the 5 story blocks, semicircular slab and barres parallèles of the 1948-50 period to the long slabs of the 1960's. The construction evolved from simple brick and stucco buildings to concrete frame construction in the later period. In this regard, Butte-rouge is a virtual exhibition of French social housing standards and construction practices as they evolved in the 20th century. Taller towers had been part of the original concept for Butte rouge although only one was actually built, a ten-story tower along Avenue Division Leclerc that marks one of the entrances to the site. Paul Sirvin designed the curving 10-story slab at the top of the hill in Place Henri-Sellier, during the middle construction period. Only this building of the later period begins to match the quality of the original 2-story blocks. This is one of the best buildings at Butte rouge and is a fine example of a very narrow modernist slab used as a freestanding element that has been curved to provide lateral support. The entrances to this thin, 10 story, south-facing, curving, point-access building are located on the backside of the 2-story high open arcade. Balconies articulated as continuous horizontal bands extend past the ends of the building providing a solution to the problematic zeilenbau end elevation and there is a partial roof terrace. New sliding windows, glazed entries and stair and elevator shafts, railings and exterior insulation and new stucco have left the site looking like new.

While the detail quality of much of the later work is lacking by comparison to Sirvin's dynamic slab, the recent restoration of the site by Alluin and Mauduit and others, has left the buildings in excellent condition. The relatively low density and abundant foliage combined with the powerful imagery of early modernist architecture: unadorned pink stucco walls, flat roofs, strip windows, articulated doorways and corners distinguish Butte rouge as one of the best examples of a garden city suburb of the 1920's and 30's.

Jean-Louis Cohen/Monique Eleb/ Antonio Martinelli (photos), Paris Architecture 1900-2000, Éditions Norma, Paris, 2000, pp. 106-115.

Bertrand Lemoine, Guide d'architecture, France 20e siècle, Picard, Paris, 2000, p. 67.

Architecture d'aujourd'hui, Nov, 1931, p. 57.

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