Souvenir d’un Futur

by KOTE in ,

Souvenir d'un Futur is a photo series of, and a tribute to, senior citizens living in the “Grands Ensembles” of the Paris region.

Mainly erected from the 1950s to the 1980s to address the housing crisis, rural outflow  and to house a population of foreign migrants while meeting the modern comfort needs, these large estates are today often stigmatized by the media and marginalized by the public opinion.

Photographer Laurent Kronental, enthralled by these housing estates and their passé modernist appeal, sheds a light on these clichés by focusing on the often forgotten elderly citizens. In his words: “I wanted to show the relation of the greatness of this architecture with the elderly people who live there, as in my eyes they represent memory of those places. With this series I wanted to create an atmosphere of a parallel universe, mixing the past and the future. In this magnificent and ghostly world, these cities present titanic structures, gobbling humans, producing our fears and our hopes as an organization of the city.”  

1) Joseph, 88 years-old, Les Espaces d'Abraxas, Noisy-le-Grand, Seine-Saint-Denis, 2014

Les Espaces d'Abraxas were built between 1978 and 1983 and conceived by Ricardo Bofill in Noisy-le-Grand. In the photo, Joseph contemplates a monumental landscape where only some quiet signs of life appear. In the foreground appears a massive building whose curvature recalls a theater.

2) Josette, 90 years-old, Vision 80, Esplanade de La Défense, Hauts-de-Seine, 2013

Vision 80 is a building of La Defense (business-district just outside Paris, red) with its architecture of unusual concrete, imagined by Jean-Pierre Jouve, Andreï Frieschlander and Charles Mamfredos. Built in 1973, it rose on piles to leave the paving stone open to the pedestrians and where the inhabitants move via elevators and external footbridges evoking a spaceship. Strong of a life crossed in the service of others, Josette, 90 years-old, stands up with dignity.

3) Denise, 81 years-old, Cité du Parc et cité Maurice-Thorez, Ivry-sur-Seine, Val-de-Marne, 2015

La Cité du Parc was built between 1979 and 1982. This innovative and complex architecture of Jean Renaudie illustrates well the intention to mix nature with the housing environment, to improve the communication between inhabitants and to favor a social harmony. It contrasts strangely with the regular ordering of the lines of La Cité Maurice-Thorez in the background built between 1952 and 1953, and whose architects are Henri and Robert Chevallier. In the center of the image, Denise, 81 years-old, stands up in front of this ocean of concrete and greenery.

4) Les Tours Aillaud, Cité Pablo Picasso, Nanterre, Hauts-de-Seine (Aillaud), 2013

Les Tour Aillaud, so called Tours Nuages or Cité Pablo Picasso, of the architect Emile Aillaud, were constructed in 1977, near the commercial district of La Defense in Parisian inner suburbs. It is composed of 18 towers, the tallest of which are 39 floors high (among the highest tower blocks in France). This photo was taken in winter, when the fog and the light leaking out behind the trees creates a poetic atmosphere. The windows of the buildings are particularly surprising: having the shape of drops of water, portholes or squares.

5) Roland, 85 years-old, Les Arcades du Lac, Montigny-le-Bretonneux, Yvelines, 2015

Les Arcades du Lac and Le Viaduc were realized by Ricardo Bofill between 1978 and 1982 in Montigny-le-Bretonneux. For this district he was among others inspired by Versailles (close to the town) by creating an artificial lake which we perceive at the bottom of the steps on which sits Roland, 85 years old. One of Bofill's goals at this time was to glorify the everyday life of the inhabitants. Appreciated or not Ricardo Bofill's style leaves nobody indifferent. This photo was taken in autumn. In the background appear the wide buildings of Les Arcades du Lac.