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Villagexpo Nantes. The resistance of a model

In the late sixties the French government had undertaken multiple researches and experimentations in the field of dwelling, within that tendency that Lukasz Stanek called “institutionalization of critic”. The debate present in those years, in particular the alternative between “pavillon” and “grand ensemble”, not exempted from harsh judgments moved to the one as to the other solution, will be background of the reflections of the greatest scholars of those years (Lefebvre in first place) and the best experimentations.

The pavillon phenomenon was judged by intellectuals and scholars as a social separation, as a surrender to market forces, and as a selfish disinterest towards the aesthetic value of the French landscapes. The empirical studies made by the ISU (Institut de Sociologie urbaine) faced the pavillon phenomenon with detachment and helped to found the basis for one particular direction undertaken by the State, concretized in experimentations such as the Villagexpo in Saint-Herblain, Nantes. In a context where the dichotomy family house / grand ensemble appeared irresoluble, and where these seemed the only possible ways, Villagexpo was an effort to overcome the one and the other flaws. In this case the solution was based not through a negation of the starting points but on their dialectical synthesis, acquiring values and eliminating flaws. On the one hand, was a critic of the grandes ensembles that remained nevertheless within a collective dimension; on the other hand, tried to look, without prejudice, to the single family houses in the suburbs, but subverting some principles. A change of life’s style through house design. However, despite all these intentions, today Villagexpo is inhabited in a very different way. Through the years its collective potentiality has been surpassed by individualistic choices discernible as closed open spaces, amplified private spaces, colonized common areas and differentiated parts which were once similar.

The research explores the factors that have originated this neighborhood: the “step back” performed by public authorities in observing single-family villas, and the felt necessity to domesticate this model and to bend it according to the desires of collectivity. The transition from the intentions to the space. How was expected to achieve the objectives, through which spatial strategies? Is studied the gap between the planner’s intentions and the current situation: what exactly are the differences and what are the causes? A study of the appropriations, the significations, and the care of the spaces shows how social relations have changed. An observation of the signs, of what is exposed, what is hidden, what is considered external, what is considered internal, which place is considered protected, and which place is considered dangerous, shows how have changed the cultural models and the dwelling forms. Through these explorations is possible to build some considerations and interpretations useful for a reflection inclined to determine the role of this heritage in following times. A project proposal tries to imagine a direction through which Villagexpo could exercise a significant part in contemporary conditions.


Eloy Llevat, Tesi di Laurea Magistrale in Architettura Costruzione Città, Politecnico di Torino, A.A. 2015/2016. Relatore: Cristina Bianchetti; Correlatore: Alessia de Biase



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