July 1, 2016

Radical Buildings that Eschewed Traditional Notions of Walls, Floors, and Ceilings Epitomize Claude Parent’s Legacy

At a Versailles house, one wing cantilevers to shelter a Ping-Pong table.

For 93 years, Claude Parent lived on the edge, both literally and figuratively. He loved to deconstruct architecture, and he was best known for radical buildings that turned away from customary notions of walls, floors, and ceilings to explore oblique orientations. For a house in Versailles, France, he turned a cube 45 degrees onto its side. For his own family house in Neuilly-sur-Seine, he composed the interior as a series of ramps and caves, creating an indoor playground for his three children. Fonction Oblique, the theory he devised with philosopher Paul Virilio, was inspired by Second World War coastal bunkers that, over the decades, had slipped down the sand dunes, producing an impression of vertigo. Parent also loved collaborating with artists, notably Yves Klein and Jean Tinguely, and driving fast cars, among them a canary-yellow Maserati and a white Rolls-Royce.

Manuella Editions published Claude Parent’s book of futuristic city drawings in 2010.

Although Parent never officially received an architecture degree, he did work in the studio of Le Corbusier, during the design of the Chapelle Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp, and went on to influence generations of architects. Jean Nouvel, for one, worked as a student in Parent’s office. Toward the end of his life, when he no longer built, he continued to look forward. He sketched avidly, filling entire notebooks with fantastic visions of futuristic cities.

The Beijing Institute of Architectural Design pre­sented him with this

model of a traditional Chinese structural element. 

He posed at Claude Parent Architecte in the Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine. 

He often drew in pencil. 

A model in cardboard and paper represents a “volcanic” house, never realized.

Produced by Kristina Raderschad.

Photography by Christian Schaulin. 

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