Renée Gailhoustet is one of the rare woman architects of her generation who achieved national and international recognition. Across four decades, her very formally diverse projects essentially involve public housing developments integrating shops, facilities, offices, public spaces and housing units into the same macrostructure. Nurtured by the thinking of Jean Renaudie and the critical break begun by Team X, in her projects she took the opposite course to the logic of the great public housing developments. Gailhoustet’s work on the geometry of forms resulted in both rich and complex architectural and urban configurations. With Renaudie, she would define for Ivry-sur-Seine an alternative principle of staggered construction, an unusual and spectacular urban form. Here, architecture becomes a political and social tool aimed at building the potential for encounters, exchanges and well-being. She included duplex apartments with double-height spaces, vast openings, unexpected spaces and joyful geometry, developed pathways and façades, garden terraces, etc. After her exemplary renewal of the town center of Ivry with the introduction the privatized terrace, Renée Gailhoustet evolved from the “Corbusian typology” (bars and towers) to groupings of staggered and planted terraces, organized in a polygonal (Le Liégat) or orthogonal (Marat) complex.
Following her study of philosophy, Renée Gailhoustet (Oran, Algeria 1929) entered the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts de Paris (National School of Fine Arts in Paris). She joined the architecture studio of Marcel Lods, where she met Jean Renaudie. In 1961, she obtained her diploma thanks to a subject considered “trivial” at the time: apartment buildings. While working at the firm of Roland Dubrulle, she began to participate in 1962 in the study for the urban renewal of Ivry-sur-Seine. She founded her own firm in 1964 and became the chief architect on the urban plan for Ivry in 1969. In addition to her numerous projects in suburban Paris (Aubervilliers, Saint-Denis, Villejuif), she also developed two urban plans for Reunion Island. She taught at the Ecole Spéciale d’Architecture (1973-1975), and also authored two books (Eloge du logement (In praise of housing), 1993; Des racines pour la ville (Roots for the City), 1998).