Rationalism and sentiment in Garnier’s «cité industrielle»


‘Tony Garnier (1869-1948) was born in Lyons, and spent his childhood in the working-class quarter of Croix Rousse. At the age of fourteen he was admitted to the Martinere Technical School, and after having won a scholarship went on to attend the School of Fine Arts at Paris. From 1899 to 1904 he studied at the French Academy in Rome. At Paris in 1904 he presented a pri-vate exhibition of this plan for a «cité industrielle», and the complete project was published in 1917. This exhi-bition displays most of the 164 designs and drawings from, the second edition of «cité industrielle», published in 1917, illustrating the plans of a town with 35,000 inhabitants in minute detail. This project can be seen as one of the most interesting examples of the school of utopian architecture and global urban organization which was common at the beginning of this century. Garnier’s ideas, however found a num-ber of practical applications, and he designed several public buildings and residential areas at Lyons. These works are characterized by the attention paid to the hu-man dimension of the city and the avoidance of brusque interruptions of established traditions. Whilst the Modernist Movement, based on strictly ra-tionalist premises, developed a style which broke com-pletely with the past and separated the different spheres of public and private activity with rigid and somewhat arbitrary divisions, Garnier takes this rationalist philosophy and, bearing in mind the essentially human nature of social organization, presents us with the con-cept of a city which is an organic unit capable of of-fering its inhabitants the best possible opportunities for personal and civic growth and fulfilment. Even though Garnier was faced with the same architectural problems as the rationalist-inspired Modernist Movement, he cannot be considered to be a founder of this school. His position is distinctly independent and original, and his theories have rarely been considered with sufficient attention. His studies on architecture and tradition, architecture and decoration, and architecture and landscape none of which rely, like the Modernist Movement, on the cancellation of that which already exists in order to start anew, have been almost entirely ignored by generations of students and experts, with the exception of occasional references, and his work is vir-tually unknown. This exhibition was organized by Professor Riccardo Mariani, head of the Urbanistics Department of the Faculty of Architecture at Geneva University, in the hope of remedying this situation, and is an excellent oppor-tunity to examine the work of a true master and to discuss European architecture in the twentieth century.’


25 Agosto 1990 - 09 Gennaio 1990


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