Address: 36–44, boulevard Brune
Year of completion: c1930
Client: OPH de la Ville de Paris Architect: OPH de la Ville de Paris
Typical floor area: 5,064m2
Inspired notably by Italian public offices for low-cost housing (see ‘Rome’ in Typology—Hong Kong, Rome, New York, Buenos Aires. Review No II (Zurich: Park Books, 2012)), the Bonnevay Act of 23 December 1912 created similar institutions to remedy the acute housing shortage in post-war Paris. They were charged with the planning, construction and management of HBM and received to this end loans from the state at favorable rates of interest. The Office Public d’Habitations (OPH) actually only began operations in 1919. On its advisory council sat persons hitherto active on behalf of the Lebaudy Foundation [5.14, 6.6] and the Rothschild Foundation [2.2, 4.6, 6.5]. Their vast experience of HBM quickly made the OPH a major player in the field of social housing. Although its initial role was simply to manage existing housing stock on behalf of the City, it soon obtained the right, not only to inspect the City’s current and prospective housing projects, but also to design and build some of its own. The watchwords thereby were air and light as well as the educational and social benefits the Foundations attributed to social housing. So, although the philosophy and militancy of the hygiene movement were fast disappearing from Parisian discourse, the OPH still clearly bore their stamp. Its ensembles, unlike those built by the SAGI [1.5, 1.6, 3.1] and the RIVP [2.1], largely fulfilled the ideal of workers’ housing promoted at the turn of the century. Yet market logic and the housing crisis obliged the Office, too, to make concessions, notably regarding elevations’ sunlight exposure. In the case of the Groupe Didot, optimal ventilation was sacrificed to achieve a higher density. The OPH [2.3, 2.4, 3.3, 3.4, 4.1] built 14,000 units in all, mainly between 1928 and 1933, the year the Minis- try of Finance suspended the Loucheur programme.