LES YEUX DES TOURS
The photographer Laurent Kronental narrates the private side of a neighboorhood he used to pass by during his childhood in the Parisian suburb, the "Tours Nuages" by Emile Aillaud.
Text by Laurent Kronental - Initiated in 2015, this project extends my study of "Grands Ensembles" exploring them from the inside this time. For that purpose, I have chosen to photograph the social housing area of "Les Tours Aillaud" and illustrated the life of its inhabitants. Fascinated both by the architectural venture as much as by its underlying utopian paradigm, I wish to invite the spectator to discover the intimacy of the housing and to find clues of human presence within this exceptional "Grand Ensemble". The "Tours Nuages" of "Cité Pablo Picasso" captivate by their curves and lines, their sheer size, their colored mosaic facades and their porthole-like windows whose Janus-like eyes observe both the world outside and the world inside. They are telling features of our society and of man’s aspirations.
With its variety of landscapes and lights, the porthole is charming the spectator. And yet, it can also be unsettling because it shows a teeming and moving society spreading its glass and steel buildings over the surrounding nature. The two feelings alternate in the daily life of inhabitants who try to secure a haven with their furniture and their favorite objects to try and recreate some roots. The porthole makes the illusion of travelling, of a new departure towards happiness. Here is the testimony of an initial hope: offering something more than a cubic shaped bedroom community.
The promise of a better future is still standing but it has become tainted with melancholy as, atop these “Tours Nuages” that were designed to merge with the sky, humans keep searching for some identity. While they used to be movers and shakers with a vision, they have endured and left a trace. Eerily missing in the photographs, they impose their stubborn presence out of self-defense or vainglory. Everyday they will draw their curtains to recreate the pageant of the sun mirroring in the towers.
The original exaltation has given way to reality: the tower-vessel is still at quay, it has aged and the hope of change has been gradually tainted with routine modesty. In the 1970s-1980s, Emile Aillaud hoped to improve social relationships by his new architecture at a time when everything seemed possible: landing on the moon, having your own PC, communicating with the world through the new high-tech networks.
The "Tour Nuages" and their amazing look confers them strength and formidable magic. They both repel and fascinate, they both distress and amaze. They are fine and elegant but also damaged by time. That time which has made them anachronistic. It is this ambivalence that seduced me so much. This partly fueled my desire to complete this project.