Claude Parent

Centrale nucléaire, Dannes, 1975

In 1974, the year after the first Oil Shock, EDF (French National Power Company) entrusted the task of coordinating the construction of twelve nuclear power plants to Claude Parent. The initial study phase enabled the architect to define the major theoretical guidelines for the project and to develop the first formal sketches. Beyond the very stringent technical constraints linked to the program of a nuclear power plant, the beauty of the natural sites selected for them and the size of these structures resulted in their emulation around the world: “Such a reshaping of the landscape had not been seen since the period of Marly. The atom is enabling us to take back control of the architecture of the territory.” Claude Parent advocated a concept of “landscape-architecture,” in which the “power plant in the fields” could also provide places for relaxation and leisure. He proposed four typological models of great visual power, the Hottes (extractor hoods), the Stratifications, the Temples and the Organs; of which the first two were selected by EDF. In the second phase, eight other architects (among whom Paul Andreu) were brought onboard, forming a College. They divided up the projects and brainstormed together about new forms for the architecture of the reactor, the machine room and the nuclear island. Claude Parent was specifically responsible for designing two plants, at Cattenom (Moselle, 1978) and Chooz (Ardennes, 1982), and published two books tracing the project from inception to completion, L’architecture et le nucléaire (Architecture and Nuclear Power) in 1978 and Les maisons de l’atome (Houses of the Atom) in 1983.

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