I first ran into this block of fascinating architecture on my way to Le Centquatre (check the article), a popular cultural centre located in the north of Paris. The gigantic flat blocks are the very opposite of what Paris’ touristic image stands for, and perhaps that adds to the fascination.
The so called Orgues de Flandre (organs of Flanders, referring to the avenue de Flandre) are four residential towers that in total contain 1,950 apartments. The largest tower measures 118 meters and is certainly not Paris’ highest building, but nonetheless one of the most intimidating that I have seen so far.
Built in the 1970s out of the drawings of a German architect, they were a counter reaction to the uniformity of the Parisian architecture at the time. Like many of the large scale, low-cost housing projects, the Orgues de Flandre did not necessarily have a good reputation, but the buildings seem in rather good shape today after a big renovation project of three years, finished in 2012.
I met one of the inhabitants who indeed seemed to be happy about his apartment: when I was taking pictures he started talking to me about how satisfied he was to live there and what great view he had. As if he would be happy to see more people discovering his neighbourhood. Which is definitely worth a go because of its cultural mix and free creative spirit.