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The Martin Centre for Architectural and Urban Studies

- the research arm of the Department of Architecture

Studying at Cambridge


Housing the French 1945-75

Dr Nick Bullock's current research is generally concerned with architectural and urban developments in France after WWII which provides a useful contrast to the British material presented in his book "Building the Post-war World, Modern Architecture in Britain 1945-55" (2002).
Much of Nick's current interest in France is focused on the way that France responded to the housing crisis of the early 1950s that was a product not just of the war and the long-term failure to invest in housing but also of the demand for housing generated by the movement of population to urban areas, one of the key dimensions of the modernisation of post-war France. This provides a way of approaching a number of different fields: the new forms of collective housing; the production of housing; the development of the individual dwellings; and the relationship between housing, the neighbourhood and the city. Nick has already addressed a number of these themes in articles that will be gathered together in a book with the current working title "Thirty Glorious Years? Housing the French 1945-75".

Nick's research has benefited, and continues to profit greatly from collaboration with French colleagues in the Schools of Architecture at Paris-Belleville, Lille, Marne-la-Vallée, and Versailles, and from his membership of La Groupe de Recherche pour une Histoire du Logement à l’Epoque Contemporaine led by Danièle Voldman, Sorbonne-Paris 1. This collaboration has been supported by a British Academy award.

New forms of Collective Housing
The construction of the early grands ensembles, the large housing developments that are now such a familiar feature of suburban development in the Parisian region and around other French cities is a subject that is addressed in two articles, "Developing Prototypes for France’s Mass Housing Programme, 1949-53", Planning Perspectives, Jan 2007, and "Les grands projets du MRU, 1949-1952. Des prototypes pour l’habitat de banlieue?", in eaV, Vol 12, 2007.

The Mass-production of Housing
The efforts by the Ministry of Reconstruction and Urbanism (MRU) to encourage the development of new forms of construction for housing are the subject of two articles: the first, "'You assemble a lorry but you build a house', Noisy-le-Sec and the French debate on Industrialised Building 1944-49", Construction History, 2007, deals with the early post-war developments; the second, "20,000 Dwellings a Month for 40 Years, State sponsorship of industrialised housing in France during the 1950s", documents key MRU initiatives taken during the 1950s.

The Development of the Dwelling
Rethinking the form of the dwelling and the role played by organisations such as the Salon d’Arts Ménagers, magazines like Paris Match and women’s journals such as Elle is a central theme in Nick's research into aspirations for the ‘new dwelling’. This forms the subject of an article, "La 4CV et la maison idéale, revue de presse 1950-54", Architecture, Mouvement, Continuité, No. 163, September 2006.

The Dwelling and the City
This major field of investigation forms the subject of an article, currently in preparation, on politics, land and housing in Paris region in the mid 1950s, "Responses to the housing ‘crisis’ of spring 1954: politics and housing in the Paris region". Other articles will address questions of housing and planning, the relationship between work, transport and housing, and housing and the shortage of land in the Paris region.
July 2007