In 1924 Industrialist Henry Frugès set upon an idea, an idea to create housing for workers, a community based around gardens, simplicity and great architecture. He called on Le Corbusier (Charles Edouard) to help with the experiment. The brief was simple:
“I authorise you to put your theories into practice, however extreme the consequences might be. I would like to achieve conclusive results in a new form of inexpensive living quarters. Pessac must be a laboratory.”
There were to be 135 houses (although only 50 were built), each were based around six different looks: Arcade, Gratte-ciel (skyscraper), Isolée, Jumelle (twin), Quinconce, Zig-zag (as shown here)
Each property was based around Corbusier's 'five points of modern architecture':
- Pilotis – The replacement of supporting walls by a grid of reinforced concrete columns that bears the load of the structure is the basis of the new aesthetic.
- The free designing of the ground plan – The absence of supporting walls means that the house is unrestrained in its internal usage.
- The free design of façade – By separating the exterior of the building from its structural function the façade becomes free.
- The horizontal window – The façade can be cut along its entire length to allow rooms to be lit equally.
- Roof gardens – The flat roof can be utilized for a domestic purpose while also providing essential protection to the concrete roof.
The properties were to be constructed of reinforced concrete, the living spaces to consist of a living room with a feature/focual point fireplace, small kitchen, bathroom and two bedrooms. The floors were parque, the windows: large and set flush against the outside of the concrete walls which brought the outside in. A central Zig Zag staircase that not only split up the areas of living, but gives the impression of space and height.
Sadly it never really took off, many of the workers struggled with understanding how to use the space/designs and many left. Over time a few of the houses were adapted and extended to fit modern life. Fast forward to now, and La Cité Frugès is under a transformation, the houses are now protected and all have to be restored. That means; original windows, colour schemes and removal of any extension(s) that had been added. A quick walk around the area will see this has happened to many (and they look spectacular), but a few are still untouched, some are just shells.
I know this is already a popular spot for architectural fans, but even if you are not it's a throughly interesting place to visit. I would highly recommend the tour/talk at the museum/restored house (photos below), which is beautiful and very interesting.
Everyone I know is fed up of me talking about La Cité Frugès, but I fell in love with it. There is a plot for sale, two of the "skyscrapers" (I suspect about 2000 sq ft in total) are going for approx 300,000+euros, the restoration will cost a further 200,000euros……. it is, for me, the kind of restoration I have always dreamed of. And that/this is the last I will mention of it (maybe).