Architect, polemicist, designer and theoretician, Claude Parent was the first person in France to make a sharp epistemological break with modernism, beginning in the mid 1950s. Through articles, books, magnificent manifesto-drawings and many built projects, his work has enabled us to rethink our understanding and evolve our grasp of space. From the Maison Drusch (1963) all the way to his project for the Musée du Prado (1995), he has sought to create discontinuity by shifting and tipping volumes and by fracturing of the plan. Essentially self-taught, he began his career with Ionel Schein, with whom he worked until 1955. He also participated in the Espace group, founded in 1951 by the artists André Bloc and Félix del Marle. The Architecture Principe group (1963-68) was born out of his encounter with Paul Virilio. As was the adventure of the oblique function, their innovation through the continuity of the inclined plane, which led to the construction of the l’Eglise Sainte-Bernadette-du-Banlay in Nevers (1966). Parent also designed several superstores in “béton brut” or “raw concrete” at Ris Orangis (1969) and Sens (1970), among others. In 1974, Parent began working with EDF (the national power company of France) on a project of vast proportions to insert nuclear power plants into the landscape. Commissions from the public sector for the French Education Department, the Regional Council of Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur in Marseille (1991), The Airport Terminal at Roissy (1995) and the French Pavilion at the Venice Biennale of Architecture (1996) are all expressions of his quest for disequilibrium, movement and fluidity in architecture. Demanding, critical, provocative and fiercely obstinate, Claude Parent has continuously proposed places of contradiction generating doubt and disquiet and excluding any sort of passiveness with regard to architecture.
Though destined for a career as an engineer in the field of aeronautics, Claude Parent (b. Neuilly sur Seine, 1923) enrolled in the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts of Toulouse in 1943 in the architecture studio, and then in 1946 in the one of the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts of Paris. He dropped out before obtaining his diploma in architecture, and later founded his own firm in 1956, but was only recognized by and admitted to the Order of Architects in 1966, based on his experience. An Academician, Claude Parent is a Commander of the French Legion of Honor, a Commander of Arts and Letters, Officer of the Palmes Académiques and a Commander of the National Order of Merit. Prizes stand as milestones marking his entire career: National Grand Prize of Architecture (1979), the silver medal of the Academy of Architecture, the medal of the Central Union of the Decorative Arts, the gold medal of the Society for the Encouragement of Progress and the medal of the U.I.A for his work in criticism. In 2009, a solo exhibition at the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine was dedicated to this major figure in the history of 20th-century architecture.