• A Concrete Alliance: Communism and Modern Architecture in Postwar France
    Vanessa Grossman
    Yale University Press, 2023
    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 Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment at Delft University of Technology (TU Delft). Grossman is an architect, a historian, and a curator whose research focuses on architecture’s intersections with ideology, power, housing, and governance, with a special focus on global practices in Cold War era Europe and Latin America. Grossman holds a professional diploma in Architecture and Urbanism from the University of São Paulo, a master’s degree in history of architecture from Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne University, and a doctorate in history and theory of architecture from Princeton University. Prior to TU Delft, she was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in Architecture at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zürich). She has taught at the University of Miami, Princeton University, and the National School of Architecture of Versailles. Grossman is the recipient of the 2015 Carter Manny Award for doctoral dissertation writing from the Graham Foundation.