Claude Parent

Centre commercial, Athis-Mons, 1959-1962

Avec Raymond Gravereaux, Jean Heckly et Claude Marty

The innovative and high performance metallic cable roof structure of this shopping center in the Department of the Essonne is a true example of technical prowess. The key element consists of a supporting roof structure (with a 43.5-meter span) composed of two primary cables joined by round, stainless steel struts. The stress at the extremities is transmitted to the ground by cables anchored to the foundations. Once placed under tension, this structure was covered with ribbed and galvanized steel sheets requiring insulation and waterproofing and protected here by a slate covering. Thirty-four poles, spaced at intervals of 3.35 m and distributed over long sections of the building provide further support to the primary structure. This “cable-truss” system, patented in Sweden by the engineer David Jawerth, makes it possible to install a continuous, light-weight roof without additional structural support inside the store. The supermarket, with a total surface area of 2 400 m², 1 000 m² of which are dedicated to sales space, was at the time the largest commercial establishment of its kind in the Paris region. It was unveiled to the public only one year after the opening in Rueil of France’s first supermarket, the Express-Marché, by the Goulet-Turpin company. Led by Raymond Gravereaux, a number of architects worked on this project (Claude Marty, Jean Heckly, and Claude Parent) in association with the O.T.H. engineering firm. This example, built just a few short years before vast suburban hypermarkets would become ubiquitous, indicates that in the 1960s, housing for the masses was not the only focus of attention for builders. The development of commercial space was also beginning to offer more opportunities for experimentation. In Athis-Mons, this shopping center is located in an intermediate zone between the nearby national highway and the housing (2 000 units) it serves.  

Audrey Jeanroy

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