The Concrete ‘Cabbages’ of Créteil, Paris

Built in the 1970’s, the ‘Choux de Créteil’ or ‘Créteil Cabbages’ is architect Gerard Grandval’s vision of Utopia solidified in concrete. Ten otherworldly buildings have iconised this small Paris suburb of Créteil; their giant petal-like balconies rendering its reputation as ‘the veggie village’.

The commune had little notability before this development other than its vegetable production and so Grandval thought it quite fitting to construct something legume-esque for its inhabitants.

Originally envisaging the towers with vines hanging from each balcony, Grandval’s plan for greener social housing – following his philosophy of ‘organic design’ worked out a little differently in practice.

The groovy French idealism of the 1970’s was not able to battle the social difficulties of life in the banlieue despite the ‘cabbages’ extra-terrestrial allure. The residences found there was not enough storage space and resorted to using their balconies. Instead of creating more social cohesion the balconies became a symbol of architectural ignorance – focused more on aesthetic than function. Quickly the upkeep of these buildings grew tedious and in 1976 the film, La Ville Bidon, mocked them for their lack of practicality.

Though still somewhat of an awkward space to live, an influx of students has rejuvenated the commune. Classified as a historic landmark by the government in 2008, the wacky design is considered today as one of the most emblematic achievements of modern French architecture.

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