Renée Gailhoustette. A committed French defender of social housing leaves us at the age of 93

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Renée Gailhoustet

Renée Gailhoustet, was born in Oran, French Algeria on 15 September 1929 and died in en Ivry-sur-Siene, Paris, on 4 January 2023. After first embarking on philosophy, she studied architecture at the École des beaux-arts in Paris under Marcel Lods, graduating in 1961. She dedicated her entire career to developing better social housing in Paris’ suburbs. Her approach to architecture evolved from early projects such as the Spinoza complex to the distinctive style of her best-known works: La Maladrerie and Le Liégat. The latter was been her home and studio since the project was completed.

Her interest in Parisian suburbs was piqued in 1962 when she joined the office of French architect Roland Dubrelle and participated in the urban renewal of Ivry-Sur-Seine. It was in this hugely influential project that she eventually became, together with Jean Renaudie, chief architect. In 1964, she established her own firm. Together with Renaudie, she put forward plans for a terraced approach to construction at Ivry. Rather than large complexes, she planned varied types of buildings, separated by open spaces, creating new horizons for the town and its social housing developments.

One of the instantly recognisable features of Gailhoustet’s projects are the staggered and planted terraces that allow nature to permeate domestic spaces in ways that are rarely seen in high-density housing. By using innovative geometries and mixing uses in her buildings, Gailhoustet has created a compelling argument for blurring the boundaries between interior and exterior, and, collective and individual.

In Ivry, between the late 1960s and the mid-1980s, Gailhoustet designed the Raspail, Lénine, Jeanne-Hachette and Casanova towers, the Spinoza complex and the terraced apartment buildings, Le Liégat and Marat. Her development of the La Maladrerie district at Aubervilliers, completed in 1984, with a rich blend of flats, an old people's home, artists' studios and shops, is a good example of her approach. By providing a variety of options, she believed "each inhabitant can use the town as he wishes." Gailhoustet's works are to be found mainly in the Paris suburbs, first and foremost at Ivry-sur-Seine and Aubervilliers, but also in Saint-Denis (renovation of the Ilot Basilique, 1981–1985), Villejuif, Romainville and Villetaneuse. In addition, she also undertook two developments on the island of La Réunion.

Renée Gailhoustet also taught at the École Spéciale d'Architecture from 1973 to 1975 and published a number of books.



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