Architecture &

 Social side






Construction of "Les Etats-Unis" district

The origin of the housing estate dates back to 1917. During the meeting of the municipality council of 29 March, Edouart Herriot, Mayor of Lyon, announced the creation of a boulevard from “La Guillotière” to “Vénissieux”, that will be lined with housing for workers and around which factories will be established.

To carry out the whole project, a public company for social housing (Office public d’Habitations à Bon Marché) was created on 29 May 1920.

Construction works for the first three houses, called prototype houses, lasted from December 1920 to 1925. In November 1923, Edouard Herriot informed Tony Garnier that the buildings should be two storeys higher than originally planned.

Tony Garnier fought for his project. He argued that raising the building to five storeys would require the installation of elevators. However the architect's resistance was in vain: in 1926 a new regulation imposed the same format on every collective house for workers: a ground floor and five storeys.

Tony Garnier's successive plans illustrate the evolution of his project. On 5th January 1931, the final project was completed. The buildings' official opening ceremony took place on 25 January 1934.

An exemplary rehabilitation

Man at the centre of the process

When the rehabilitation process of the social housing area began in “Les Etats-Unis” in 1985, no one expected that it was going to be the starting point of an internationally unique collaboration in urban transformation.

Its main asset ? Having decided to put man at the centre of the process, by adopting a transversal approach to rehabilitation. The rehabilitation process is not only technical, but also human, social and cultural.

Beyond the buildings and public spaces, all the inhabitants of the « Cité Tony Garnier » were altered by this adventure.

Reasons for its success

The social organisation:
: In the 1980s, “Cité Tony Garnier” was still a “village”, isolated in the middle of an area that continued to expand. Its inhabitants had known each other for a long time. They shared the same culture, formed by their working class origin, years spent in the resistance during World War 2 and the isolation of the area until 1959 when the creation of “boulevard des Etats-Unis” finally took place. In 1983, they created the Tenants Committee which played a key role in the decision to regenerate Tony Garnier’s buildings and create an urban museum.

The city policy: : Thanks to this new policy, launched in 1986 by the Central Government, additional financial resources were allocated to “sensitive” urban areas. “Les Etats-Unis” district being classified as a “sensitive” area, the buildings public owner (OPAC du Grand Lyon) was able to raise enough funds from Central Government and Local Governments (Région Rhône-Alpes, Conseil Général du Rhône, Grand Lyon et Ville de Lyon) to cover the cost of the rehabilitation process: € 43 millions over 12 years.

An unexpected encounter: In February 1988, between inhabitants of “Cité Tony Garnier” and artistes from “Cité de la Création”. It was at the origin of the project. The artists conceived the urban museum and transformed this original idea into a concrete achievement.

International recognition from UNESCO:  : Obtained in 1991, the “World Decade for Cultural Development” Prize brought international recognition to the project, and paved the way for the creation of six international murals. Several private partners joined the project at this stage (Caisse d’Epargne Rhône-Alpes, EDF-GDF Lyon Métropole, Peintures ZOLPAN et Vinylit). In 1994, they received an award for supporting the project: Oscar du Mécénat / Prix Télérama, awarded by ADMICAL (a non profit organization in charge of promoting private support to cultural, social and environmental non profit activities).

Exceptional women and men :
: It is thanks to the commitment of exceptional women and men, during more than 10 years, whether as inhabitants of “Cité Tony Garnier”, artists, “OPAC du Grand Lyon” staff members, civil servants, politicians, journalists or writers, that this “mad” project was born and achieved.

From “Ancient States” to “Cité Tony Garnier”

On 28 August 1993, the “Ancient States” area – the name given to the housing estate built by Tony Garnier since the 1960s– was renamed “Cité Tony Garnier", at the request of the Tenants Committee.

This new name is the symbol of the transformations carried out and of the area's new image in the city of Lyon: one of a place where life is pleasant, and far from the traditional disturbing image generally associated with suburbs.
The most impressive achievements of these 12 years are the followings:

- Rehabilitation of 1,568 flats , and 49 buildings.
Rehabilitation works carried out focused mainly on the façades, installation of new doors and windows, creation of bathroom, installation of elevators.

- Re-development of publics spaces (courtyards, gardens, pavements…), with the installation of new flooring, planting of gardens, development of squares and publics gardens.

- PIMMS Creation (Point d’Information Multi Média Services) to assist inhabitants when approaching public administrations and companies.

- Creation of new category of cultural centre:
Tony Garnier Urban Museum.
















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