The Grands Ensembles

Raphaële Bertho
2014 Études Photographiques  
The grands ensembles, or large-scale high-rise housing projects, are widely regarded as the quintessential products of postwar French government policy in the areas of regional and urban planning. These essential icons of the Trente Glorieuses and their "golden legend of triumphant modernization" were the subject of targeted image campaigns from the very beginning. As early as 1945, the government recognized that control over imagery was an indispensable component of its large-scale
more » ... e-scale reconstruction projects, and the departments involved established internal photography and cinematography teams to promote and defend the policies they adopted. The approach survived as the policies changed: in the context of subsequent periods and institutions, photography has been called on to depict the failure of the social housing effort or cast it as an important part of the country's architectural heritage. The analysis presented here revisits the history of the grands ensembles, building on previous studies in order to view them from a new perspective, that of the media, and more specifically of institutional photographic production.
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