Claude Parent


Parent’s early research on movement and instability, and later on the theory of the oblique function, often communicated through his drawings and buildings, has been incredibly influential to generations of architects such as Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry, Rem Koolhaas, Jean Nouvel, Daniel Libeskind, Thom Mayne, and Reiser + Umemoto.

Parent was constantly drawing to experiment with and communicate the Function of the Oblique at multiple scales and applications. The office Claude Parent Architecte closed in the early 2000s but Parent never stopped drawing, producing hundreds of carefully constructed graphite and ink compositions in which he continued to explore and apply the theories of the oblique to cities, territories, and interiors demonstrating the effect of his ramped architecture on the body. In 2010, Frédéric Migayrou curated a major retrospective of Parent’s built and drawn work at the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine’s inaugural exhibition, introducing the work to a younger generation of architects working primarily with digital drawing techniques.

Claude Parent: Visionary Architect, published by Rizzoli N.Y. presents many of the most beautiful, inspiring and visionary drawings by Claude Parent.

Below are a few quotes by leading architects, historians, journalists about Claude Parent’s graphic work:

Pritzker award recipient Jean Nouvel called him  “ the real Piranesi of our times” « Il était le véritable Piranèse de ce siècle ».

“He was a vibrant thinker,” said Frank Gehry. “He wasn’t worried about what was going on around him in normal practices, and he didn’t belong to any group. He was unabashedly himself. And
his drawings were extraordinary — beautiful fantasies, full of poetry.” (Source: New York Times – Joseph Giovannini)

Daniel Libeskind told Dezeen. “His genius was evident both in his work, his fantastic lyrical drawings and his persona. His use of oblique spaces, uncompromising geometries and bold forms, makes him of one the seminal architects of the late 20th century.”

Zaha Hadid, in her tribute to Claude Parent: “Claude Parent was one of architecture’s most radical and audacious visionaries; audacious enough to question orthogonality as architecture’s natural realm, and propose the tilted plane as the engine of invention and surprisingly fertile basis of an alternative architectural scenario”. 

Curator Edwin Eathcote noted: “It is, in its own way, irresistible, this architecture of resistance. And Parent’s beautiful pencil drawings of extraordinary ramped cities, of sci-fi settlements like spaceships, remain seductively mad utopias. In their ambition they not only presage Daniel Libeskind and Zaha Hadid, they arguably surpass them.” “The drawings were breathtaking”  he added in Architecture d’Aujoud’hui.

Architect Lars Spuybroek , in a 2002 text: “…the real ideas are in Claude’s drawings, in his structuralism, in the amazing interlacing of inclined surfaces, the unending arabesques of the oblique. Claude Parent was much further than any of us.”

“Claude Parent—inventive, intrepid, progressive, talented, sui generis—found the oblique hiding in plain sight, and made an entirely new and unexpected architecture from it. In real projects and probing theoretical drawings, the seminal thinker evolved a radical architecture that is still inspiring and structuring  discourse today. He was, and remains, indispensible.” NY Times architectural critic Joseph Giovannini. 

Olivier Zahm, editor of Purple Fashion Magazine, wrote: Claude Parent stands for the oblique, discontinuity, the utopia of our societies.

 Alexander Fury, T Magazine’s Chief Fashion Correspondent, writing about Parent’s drawings for Azzedine Alaïa: “Parent’s drawings have a sense of reductionism, stripped to that wholly necessary to communicate…Not simple, but pure.”

Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director of the Serpentine Galleries, London: 

“It is this process of destabilization by architectural time and space that makes Parent one of the most important architects of our time: his resistance to the pressure of the society to close onto itself offers an alternative liberating our conception of architectural space and individual movement.”

Philosopher and novelist Tristan Garcia:

“The entire work of Claude Parent therefore lies in the fight between the absolutism of the privileges of the vertical and the horizontal, and the absolute abolition of these privileges. His entire work lies in the mad hope there may be, between the tyranny of the orthonorm that distorts life and unworkable angular democracy, room for strategic, intelligent, punctual use of the oblique.

This strategic place, between the absolute of the designed work and the constraints of the built work, is the one of stage sets, where obliqueness of Claude Parent appears for what it is: a wedge driven between norm and freedom.”

In the 2010 retrospective catalogue, Director of the Cité de l’Architecture Francis Rambert wrote: “His visions, he will express them by drawing. Thousands of drawings, of all sizes, a continuous production for more than 50 years —from the oblique of the 60s to the Incisions of the 2000s.The Graphic Work is inseparable from the Built work. It has this fabulous exploratory power. All freedom of expression”. 

Andre Bideau, an architectural critic, wrote: “Surprisingly, the diagrammatic quality of the best oblique designs was not achieved with models, but with two dimensional drawings and diagrams. Parent has always had a passion for drawing. His architectural research and his graphic signature cannot be easily separated. Is the oblique function thus an affair of personal calligraphy?” 

Journalist Dominique Amouroux explained: “For a young man discovering the architecture produced in France in the early seventies, the sight of housing projects and industrial buildings was hopeless..  […] France was a desert.  Nothing existed except . . .  Parent. Parent and his projects, extraordinary drawings of a deep black standing out from the perspectives and offhand views of traditional renderings 
gleaming with a thousand hues.  Parent and his compact models which seemed to be made out of boxwood and polished by the hands of sculptors. Parent with his cities which rolled back over themselves to acquire the strength to strike out across the cosmos.  Parent and his practicable inclines where simple citizens moved while being moved.  Parent who revealed to men that other forms, other spaces, other ways of living were possible.  And I believe that we listened to him with even more attention as we felt that such generosity could not be commercial.”