Paris, like many major cities, saw rapid growth and expansion in the 20th century as more and more people moved from the country to the city, and travel and education freed up previous obstacles that came with foreign migration. The answer, like the UK, was to build housing estates (or, as they’re called in Paris, grand ensembles); a modern solution for modern living.
Built between the 1950s and 1980s, these once-innovative estates are now often stigmatised by both the media and society, shedding a negative light on the buildings and the people who live there. To show what’s really behind the grand ensembles – rather than rely on our preconceptions – French photographer Laurent Kronental has created Souvenir d’un Futur, a series that explores the buildings and the generation that have grown up – and still live – there.
Taken over the space of four years, the images focus on seemingly empty buildings, with just a few featuring one individual from a generation that is so often forgotten – giving them an almost ghostly, eerie atmosphere. By focusing on both the buildings and its residents, the series captures a unique element of society and our ever-changing perceptions; the grand ensembles were new, exciting and the height of modernity, its residents young and with a full life ahead.
Time has now moved on, the estates and residents have aged and this ‘modernist utopia’ is no longer a desired concept. Kronental reminds us that neither is to be forgotten.
To see more of Laurent Kronental’s work, visit his website.
Words by Angharad Jones. Images courtesy of Laurent Kronental