• A Concrete Alliance: Communism and Modern Architecture in Postwar France
    Vanessa Grossman
    Yale University Press, 2024
    Vanessa Grossman

Jean Renaudie, Jeanne Hachette mixed-use complex (1969–75), undated, Ivry-sur-Seine, France. Courtesy Archives municipales d’Ivry-sur-Seine

From 1958 to 1981, political communism and architectural modernism became mutually reinforcing ideologies in France, which circulated across networks of architects, civil servants, intellectuals, activists, and politicians. Although the period was marked by the gradual decline of both movements, by forging a common path they gave an evolving interdisciplinary group a new freedom to experiment in form and content, and to imagine an alternate future to the dominant model of Western capitalism. The book calls this historical opportunity “A Concrete Alliance,” an expression that refers altogether to the concreteness of architecture as a political tool, a building material, and a state as political ideology. Focusing on key episodes, it explores the work of Renée Gailhoustet (a rare woman architect of her generation), Jean Renaudie, and members of the Atelier d’urbanisme et d’architecture, developed in collaboration with elders like French designer Jean Prouvé and Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, self-exiled to France.

Vanessa Grossman is an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Stuart Weitzman School of Design. Grossman is an architect, historian, and curator whose work explores the intersections of architecture with ideology, housing, and government, with a particular focus on local and global practices in Cold War-era Europe and Latin America. Her books include the coedited Everyday Matters: Contemporary Approaches to Architecture (which was supported by the Graham Foundation) and AUA, une architecture de l'engagement, 1960-1985. She is also the coauthor of Oscar Niemeyer en France: Un exil créatif and author of Le PCF a changé! Niemeyer et le siège du Parti Communiste. Grossman has curated exhibitions around the world, including at the Centro Cultural São Paulo, São Paulo's Sesc 24 de Maio, the Cité de l'architecture et du patrimoine in Paris, and the Venice Architecture Biennale. She was one of the curators of the 12th International Architecture Biennial of São Paulo, entitled Todo dia/Everyday (2019). Most recently, she cocurated Constructed Geographies: Paulo Mendes da Rocha at Casa da Arquitectura, in Portugal (2023–24). Prior to joining the University of Pennsylvania, Grossman was an assistant professor at the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment at the Delft University of Technology. Grossman was the recipient of the 2015 Carter Manny Award for dissertation writing from the Graham Foundation.