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La Cité Mobile

©François Lauginie

La Cité Mobile, 1953

Charles Péré-Lahaille
  • Architect (1923)

Charles Péré-Lahaille was one of the first postwar architects to propose a completely moveable working-class town, imagining for the first time the innovative idea of mobility in architecture. Developed in collaboration with three colleagues met at the Paris School of Fine Arts—Guy Rottier, Henri Claude Rault and Jean Marcot--, the Cité mobile, which was nevertheless turned down by the School’s jury on the grounds that it involved an “architecture of railways”, would be presented three years later as part of the International Congress of Modern Architecture in Dubrovnik (1956). Beyond the actual congress, Péré-Lahaille, Friedman, Guy Rottier, Georges Candilis and Jerzy Solten forged, at that particular moment, an approach focused on the concept of an architecture capable of adapting to the social and technical changes occurring in modern life. In November 1957, their line of thinking resulted in the creation in Paris of the GEAM (Mobile Architecture Study Group) which would have a major influence in the 1960s. Pursuing his quest for a new habitat, in 1960 Charles Péré-Lahaille won an international competition for the construction of 1,500 housing units in the Kuwait desert. His “Alterative Habitation” project was based on metal structures and panels transported in containers directly flown in, and assembled on the spot by non-technical construction fitters. The project never saw the light of day, for lack of proper financial conditions, but an Alternative Habitation was nevertheless built in France.

Trained in the Atelier Madelin at the Paris School of Fine Arts, Charles Péré-Lahaille obtained his DPLG degree in architecture in 1953 with his Cité mobile project, which would be published by Michel Ragon in Prospective et Futurologie (1978). In 1956, he took part in the 10th CIAM in Dubrovnik.

Nadine Labedade