An "Industrial City"









Tony Garnier is a principal architect and urban planner of the 20th century. Many of his projects influenced his contemporary architects and informed what they considered to be modern architecture. Or, “Many of his projects influenced his contemporary architects and informed what they considered to be modern architecture”.

A discreet man, Tony Garnier dedicated most of his life to his passion for architecture. But who was he ?

His life was like his works - exemplary.

Tony Garnier was born on 13 August 1869 in Lyon, in a district called “La Croix-Rousse”. He was the son of a “canut”, the local name given to workers in the silk industry. His father, Pierre Garnier, was a silk designer. His mother, Anne Evrard was a weaver. From a very young age he was confronted with the harsh living conditions of silk workers. Through his passion for architecture, he sought to find a solution to the problem of social housing. Inventing a new way of thinking about housing became one of his major concerns.

From his childhood, Tony Garnier's ambition was to become an architect. His strong motivation explains his success, at a time when most young architects were following in their fathers' footsteps...

Tony Garnier started studying at “La Martinière aux Terreaux” (1883-1886) before going to Lyon School of Fine Arts (1883-1886). In 1889, he left for Paris, where he participated six times for the “Grand Prix the Rome”. In 1899, he finally won, and this allowed him to become a resident at “Villa Médicis” in Rome for four years, where he studied antique monuments.

As part of his training in Rome, Tony Garnier not only discovered Roman heritage, but also visited Greece and the Middle East. During this period, he became good friends with Bouchard, a sculptor.

Very soon, Tony Garnier proved to be very different from other students. He was not very disciplined, and did not carry out the projects requested by the French Academy, which concerned the study of isolated antique monuments. He prefered to work on an entire city “Tusculum”. In four years at “Villa Médicis”, he spent only six months working on antique monuments. Most of his time was dedicated to a project for the creation of a new city, a modern one, called An Industrial City. published for the first time in 1917.

Very attached to his roots, Tony Garnier decided, at the end of his Roman journey, to come back to his home town: Lyon. He secured his first project from the Major of Lyon, Victor Augagneur, to build the
Municipal dairy located in the park “La Tête d'Or”. The Major was very satisfied with the architect's work, and recommended him to his sucessor, Edouard Herriot.

The began a long and fruitful collaboration between them. Edouard Herriot commissioned Tony Garnier to execute most of the “Great Works” of the city: Abattoir of La Mouche and cattle market (1908-1928), Hospital of Grange-Blanche (1911-1933), Municipal Stadium of Gerland (1913-1926) and Social Housing area "Les Etats-Unis" (1919-1933). They will all be published in 1920.

On 20 July 1915, at the age of 46, he married Catherine Laville, 21. They settled in a villa he built at Saint-Rambert.

Between 1930 and 1933, he executed the last one of his great construction works: Boulogne - Billancourt Municipality City Hall.

After having trained a generation of architects in Lyon, Tony Garnier retired in 1938, at Carnoux, La Bédoule, nearby Cassis, in the South of France. He dedicated this period of his life to his first love: drawing. Reading his personal diary, for the period 1940–1943, confirms that he had a very abundant production of sketches and drawings, one per day in average.

He died on 19 January 1948, without descendants. His body was repatriated to Lyon on November 1949, and is buried in the cimetery of “La Croix-Rousse”. In his praise, Edouard Herriot saied:

“This builder, this realistic person, was spontaneously human. His sensitivity was only equal to his modesty. His culture proved to be often surprising. Indeed, Tony Garnier was a master, with all the nobleness and intelligence included in this word. A master, which means a guide and an example… But the Man was as admirable as the scholar; his moral qualities were equal to his genius.”

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