La Cité de Refuge
Cité de Refuge 1929 – 1933
Architectes: Le Corbusier (1887-1965) & Pierre Jeanneret (1896-1967)
12, rue de Cantagrel 75013 Paris
La Cité de Refuge (link in French) is in the worst shape of any of the Le Corbusier’s I’ve visited so far but a renovation project is currently under way so I assume this will change in the not too distant future. The Cité de Refuge was built by the Salvation Army (link in French) to provide beds and services for 500 of the city’s most needy men. The building is enormous but if you come at it from the back it’s easy to overlook as the battleship gray allows it to disappear into the dirty dishwater Parisian sky. From the front, I found the primary colored façade a bit too faux cheery. The main entrance is decidedly not wheelchair accessible but my guess is there’s a way to get in via the back entrance were one feeling intrepid (reservations are necessary if you want to check out the inside).
This part of the 13th is changing rapidly and extensively. The street in front of the Cité de Refuge is a minefield of crotte de chien and broken beer bottles while directly behind it is a brand spanking new library (the Bibliothèque Universitaire des Langues et Civilisations). And on the rue du Chevaleret side the building faces ultra modern bobo condos, a sleek new theatre complex, and as yet unoccupied storefronts. The Cité de Refuge still seems a bit out of place, both ahead of it’s time and lost in time, but in a few years it will fit right in.
While I was taking pictures residents came and went, some in worse shape than the building, others stopped to chat making clear that they knew the building was architecturally significant. I wondered if they were given an architectural overview as part of their intake process or if they’d simply picked up tidbits form the stream of architectural tourists and students coming by to take pictures and commune with the building.