Souvenir d'un Futur
Photo essay by LAURENT KRONENTAL
Souvenir d'un Futur documents the life of senior citizens living in the “Grands Ensembles” (large housing projects) around Paris. For the most part erected between the 1950s and the 1980s to address the housing crisis, urban migration and the inflow of foreign migrants while meeting modern comfort needs, these large estates are today often stigmatized by the media and marginalized by public opinion. In sharp contrast with these cliché views, and fascinated by these projects’ ambitious and dated modernistic features, Laurent Kronental was moved by the living conditions of these urban veterans who have aged there, and who, he feels, are the memory of the locus.
He felt a need to examine their living conditions and shed light over a sometimes-neglected generation. Exposing these unsung and underestimated suburban areas is a means to reveal the poetry of aging environments slowly vanishing, and with them, the memory of modernist utopia.
His photographs are tinted with melancholic, yet brave disenchantment. The majestic mass of the futuristic vessels seems to drift across an ocean of concrete. But the presence of old people, which might seem unexpected in such settings, paradoxically hints at a possible hope, as if past illusions were not all dead yet. Using a 4x5” analog camera, the artist highlights the architectural geometry without stamping out the details.
Souvenir d'un Futur is the result of four years of visits and exchanges. In this series, Laurent Kronental wanted to create the atmosphere of a parallel world mixing past and future while consciously conveying the impression of towns that would be emptied of their residents. In this magnificent and ghostly world, the structures of our cities would be titanic, gobble the human, the product of our fears and hopes for an organization of the city.
Marked by the passing of time, these massive, gray buildings, like their elder residents, bear the signs of long lives. And yet, in these wrinkled faces and cracked walls, in the energy of the bodies and of the facades, emerges the pride and pulse that we thought had disappeared. The peaceful faces and the bareness of the spaces convey a mix of resignation and expectation, skepticism and confidence, unsatisfaction and plenitude - a world of contrasts, deep layers of life, spontaneity. These “monuments”, as living memories of their time, hold a fragile force: that of a younger generation that did not see itself age.
1) Les Tours Aillaud, Cité Pablo Picasso, Nanterre, 2014 Architect: Emile Aillaud
2) Joseph, 88, Les Espaces d'Abraxas, Noisy-le-Grand, 2014 Architect: Ricardo Bofill
3) Alain, 80, Les Damiers, Courbevoie, 2013
4) José, 89, Les Damiers, Courbevoie, 2012
Architects: Jacques Binoux, Michel Folliasson, Abro and Henri Kandjian
5) Josette, 90, Vision 80, Esplanade de La Défense, 2013
Architects: Jean-Pierre Jouve, André Frischlander and Charles Mamfredos
6) José, 89, Puteaux-La Défense, 2012
7) Joseph, 88, Les Espaces d'Abraxas, Noisy-le-Grand, 2014 Architect: Ricardo Bofill
8) Le Pavé Neuf, Noisy-le-Grand, 2015 Architect: Manuel Núñez Yanowsky
9) Jean-Claude, 82, Les Espaces d'Abraxas, Noisy-le-Grand, 2014
10) Les Orgues de Flandre, 19e arrondissement Paris, 2014 Architect: Martin Van Treeck
11) Roland, 85, Les Arcades du Lac, Montigny-le-Bretonneux, 2015 Architect: Ricardo Bofill
12) Denise, 81, Cité du Parc et cité Maurice-Thorez, Ivry-sur-Seine, 2015 Architect: Jean Renaudie
13) Jean, 89, Puteaux-La Défense, 2011
14) Les Tours Aillaud, Cité Pablo Picasso, Nanterre, 2013 Architect: Emille Aillaud
15) Cité Curial-Cambrai, Nicole, 73, 19e arrondissement Paris, 2015 Architect: André Coquet
16) Denise, 81, Cité Spinoza, Ivry-sur-Seine, 2015
17) Lucien, 84, Les Espaces d'Abraxas, Noisy-le-Grand, 2014 Architect: Ricardo Bofill
18) Paulette, 83, Les Damiers, Courbevoie, 2015
19) Jacques, 82, Le Viaduc et les Arcades du Lac, Montigny-le-Bretonneux, 2015 Architect: Ricardo Bofill
20) Les Espaces d'Abraxas, Noisy-le-Grand, 2014 Architect: Ricardo Bofill