An architect and urban planner, essayist and tireless militant for “better living” for all, Jean Renaudie developed an original approach to the urban phenomenon, nourished by the architectural experimentation of Team X, the Japanese Metabolists and Paolo Soleri, but also by the latest theoretical and epistemological advances of the time. Working first with the Atelier de Montrouge and then in his own firm, he began designing several projects in the early 1960s in which he made innovative use of geometry. Opposed to the schematization of the “standard housing unit,” or any reproducible recipe, Renaudie utilized the concept of complexity developed by the biologist François Jacob in order to propose on an ad hoc basis “architectural solutions” that eliminate the distinction between architecture and urbanism: each element only has meaning in its combination with a structure, which is in turn deeply integrated into the element. Based on the repetition and the combination of geometric forms, he designed new and heterogeneous configurations for housing with brutalist accents intended to respond to human diversity and to be adaptable to everyone’s needs. Although the architect’s thinking had already matured by 1968 with his proposal (declined) for the New Town of Vaudreuil (1967-68), his numerous large-scale urban housing projects – notably the town center of Ivry-sur-Seine (1970-83) – all built during more-or-less the space of a single decade, attest to the constructability and the richness of the alternatives Renaudie proposed.
Jean Renaudie (La Meyze, 1925 – Ivry-sur-Seine, 1981) was a graduate in architecture of the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts (Paris). In 1956, he joined the firm of Philippe Ecochard where he met Pierre Riboulet, Gérard Turnhauer and Jean-Louis Véret. Together, they founded the Atelier de Montrouge in 1958, which Renaudie eventually left in 1968. That same year, he was invited by Renée Gailhoustet, whom he had met during his studies at the Atelier Lods, to participate in the renovation of the town center of Ivry-sur-Seine (Danielle Casanova, 1970-72; Jeanne Hachette, 1970-75; Ecole Einstein, 1979-82), a project that would be followed by several other major projects (Town center of Givors, 1974-81; Villetaneuse, 1976-83; Saint-Martin d’Hères and 1979-82). In 1978 he was awarded the National Grand Prize for Architecture for his lifetime career.