Claude Parent

Short Biography

Claude Parent was born on February 26, 1923 in Neuilly-sur-Seine, and died there on February 27, 2016 at the age of 93.

After studying mathematics, in 1936 he joins the workshop of Noël Le Maresquier at the Beaux-Arts school in Toulouse. After the war, he moves to Paris to resume his studies in numerous Beaux-Arts workshops. Disgusted by the conservatism and academicism of the school, he decides to leave it, and after a few stints in agencies (including that of Le Corbusier), he joins forces with Ionel Schein, another rebellious student. Their association lasted from 1949 to 1955. In 1952, while they were still students, together they won a national architectural competition organized by the magazine La Maison Française. This price propels them into the press and brings them orders for individual houses. After meeting André Bloc who brought him into the Espace Group, he becomes a member of the editorial committee of the magazine Architecture d’Aujourd’hui. He remained a member of the editorial board of the magazine for more than 30 years. Within the Espace group, he works with many artists and meets Yves Klein with whom he worked on the architecture of air and fire. He builds numerous individual houses including Villa Bloc at Cap d’Antibes, Maison Bordeaux-Le Pecq and Maison Drusch. He also builds several residential and office buildings including the remarkable Avicenne Foundation (formerly Maison de l’Iran) at the Cité Universitaire Internationale in Paris (1962, with André Bloc and the Iranian architects Moshen Foroughi and Heydar Ghiai).

In 1963, he founds the Architecture Principe group with Paul Virilio, Michel Carrade and Morice Lipsi. Parent and Virilio, defending the idea of ​​a new appropriation of breaking space with the orthogonal rule, develop the “Oblique Function” (1963-1968). Parent is co-founder, then editor-in-chief of the magazine Architecture Principe, the group’s manifesto. Among the projects carried out which are representative of the concept of “oblique function”, we can mention the Sainte-Bernadette church in Nevers (1963-1966) with Paul Virilio, now protected as a Historic Monument.

After the breakup of Architecture Principe, Claude Parent continues to experiment and develop the Oblique Function in several buildings, including his own house, the Bellaguet apartment, or the Sens supermarket (1970, also protected as a Historic Monument). Until 1973, he also undertook an action to popularize oblique architecture within the framework of cultural centers. In 1969, he is appointed curator of the French pavilion at the 1970 Venice Art Biennale, which he transforms into an oblique space and invites artists to participate in this experience.

At the same time, he builds large commercial complexes, socio-cultural complexes, notably the youth and culture center of Troyes, office buildings in Lyon-Villeurbanne for Electricité de France and in the historic center of Prague (building and gallery commercial Myslbek, with Zdenek Hölzel and Jan Kerel, 1992-1996), some middle and high schools.

He develops architectural models as well as site integration studies for the Électrcité de France nuclear power plant program. He directs the College of Architects which will carry out architectural research for EDF and works in particular on the Cattenom and Chooz power stations. He also designs the Silvia Monfort Theater in Paris, the Hôtel de Région (Governmental building) in Marseille, and the town hall of Lillebonne.

A theorist, he is the author of numerous works, such as Vivre à l’oblique (1970), Cinq reflections sur l’architecture (1972), Claude Parent architecte (1975), Architecture et Nucléaire (1978), Entrelacs de l’oblique (1981), L’architecte, bouffon social (1982), Colères (1982), Les Maisons de l’Atome (1983), Errer dans l’Illusion (2001), Quand les Bouffons relèvent la tête (2002) , Cuits et archicuits (2003), Demain la Terre (2010), Stop & Go (2012), And numerous critical articles, in particular for Architecture d’Aujourd’hui.

His architectural achievements and theories, his visionary drawings and his writings are today recognized as a major influence on contemporary architecture. Breaking with the classical and modernist orthogonal rule, he introduced the oblique as an architectural solution, promoting movement and instability in the architectural language. Jean Nouvel (who worked for Claude Parent), Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Daniel Libeskind, Wolf D. Prix, Odile Decq and many others, as well as great architectural historians have confirmed the incredible revolution and seminal influence that The oblique feature has represented historically in post-war and contemporary architecture.

Commander of the Legion of Honor 2010
Commander of the Academic Palms
Commander of Arts and Letters 1996
Commander in the Order of Merit 1990
Grand Prix National d’Architecture 1979
Silver Medal from the Academy of Architecture
Medal of the Union of Decorative Arts
Gold medal from the Society for the Encouragement of Progress: 1983
UIA medal for his critical work
Large silver medal for Architecture I: 1978 (Fondation le Soufoché)
Member of the Academy of Architecture from 1979 to 2006
Member of the Academia delle Arte de design in FlorenceMember of the Institute: Academy of Fine Arts, reception on March 15, 2006

Short chronology:

February 26, 1923: Claude Parent is born in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France.

1942:  Claude Parent enters the École des Beaux-Arts (Architecture) in Toulouse. 1947, Claude Parent integrates the École des Beaux-Arts of Paris.

1949: He meets Ionel Schein at the school and both join the studio of Georges-Henri Pingusson.

1950: The two students write to André Bloc to defend the role of youth in L’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui. André Bloc then invites them to create a group of young people within the association.

1952: Parent and Schein win a competition organized by the magazine La Maison française to build a one family house in Ville-d’Avray, inaugurated the following year.

1953: Parent and Schein join the Le Corbusier’s studio, where they work on the Unité d’habitation in Nantes-Rezé.

A collaborative studio of architectural concepts is created in Parent’s apartment.

1955: Claude Parent finishes the Perdrizet House (Champigny-sur-Marne, 1955-1957) and contributes to the Domaine de la Grotte in Lourdes.

1956: Claude Parent joins the board of the Groupe Espace and starts working on the Soultrait’s house (Domont, 1956-1958).

1957: Goulet-Turpin brings him in for the creation of the first French self-service supermarkets. Interior design for the Café du Rond-Point des Champs-Elysées.

1959: He gets onto the editorial board of L’Architecture d’aujourd’hui.

1960: Upon the recommendation of André Bloc, Parent joins the conceptual team of the Maison de l’Iran (at the Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris)[1] until 1969. He also designs Bloc’s summer house on the Cap d’Antibes (1959-1966).

1959-1962: The architect draws renderings of L’Architecture de l’air for Yves Klein and also works on a multiple stage theater project with Yaacov Agam.

1963: Architecture Principe group with Paul Virilio. Realization of the Sainte-Bernadette du Banlay church (Nevers, 1963-1966). Parent designs the Drusch Villa in Versailles (1963-1966), and the Blind polyhedron for the Youth and Arts Center in Troyes (1963-1965).

1964: Realization of a house/studio for painter Andrée Bordeaux-Le Pecq (Bois-le-Roy, 1964-1966).

1965: Nicolas Ledoux-Exploration du futur exhibit at the Salines royales de Chaux, in Arc-et-Senans, curated by Parent and Goulet, with radical projects by Archigram, Soleri, Kikutake and Architecture Principe.

1966: Nine iconic issues of Architecture Principe are published. Parent and Virilio design the Research Center Thomson-Houston in Vélizy-Villacoublay.

1967-1968: Claude Parent designs a number of shopping malls and hypermarkets of which four will be built (Ris-Orangis, Epernay, Tinqueux and Sens) between 1967 and 1971. Jean Nouvel joins the studio. Summer 1968: The group Architecture Principe is dissolved.

1970: Claude Parent curates the French Pavilion at the Venice Biennale for the Arts. His practicable space called The line of greater slope brings together a number of artists. International Competition for the Plateau Beaubourg (future Georges Pompidou Center). Parent designs an oblique apartment for painter Bellaguet, rue Perronet (Neuilly-sur-Seine). Three years later, he will renew the experiment in his own home, also in Neuilly. Publication of his manifesto Vivre à l’Oblique.

1971: “Tour of the Oblique”(1971-1974) visits 10 cities with experimental oblique practicable spaces, exhibits, screenings, performances and public debates.

1974: Nine schools and six competitive projects will follow up until 1995. EDF (Electricity of France) commissions a preliminary architectural study of the nuclear power stations.

1975: Claude Parent creates and heads up the Collège des architectes du nucléaire within EDF.  This group of nine architects will work together until 1984. Parent will build Cattenom (1975-1991) and Chooz B (1979-1997) in the east of France.

1977: He becomes Chevalier of the Legion of Honor.

1979: Claude Parent receives the Grand Prix National d’Architecture, France’s highest Architectural award.

1987: Parent, with Biaggi and Maurin, wins the competition for the Region Hall PACA (Marseilles).

1988, Parent wins the competition for the Parc de Passy (Paris). Parent later wins his lawsuit against the Ministry of Equipment, Housing, Planning and Transportation which had rejected his project.

February 21, 1990: Parent becomes officer of the Legion of Honor. He starts working for ADP (Paris Airports), with the Aéronef at Roissypôle (1996).

1991:  Parent, with Reichen & Robert, realizes the EDF complex of Cap Ampère (Saint-Denis, 1991-1996). Parent also designs the Myslbek Center in Prague with Hölzel and Kerel. 

1992:  Inauguration of the Théâtre Silvia Monfort in Paris.

1993: Parent and Group 3 win the competition for the Lillebonne Town Hall (1993-1998).

1995-1996: Competition for the Centre de Creation Contemporaine in Tours with Coop Himmelb(l)au. Parent will later consult for the Viennese studio on the Musée des Confluences project (Lyon, 2001-2014).

1996: Bloc, le monolithe fracturé exhibition curated by Frédéric Migayrou at the Venice Biennale. Parent is commissioned to design the entrance to the French pavilion. He closes his studio that year.

2004- 2005: Drawings and models by Architecture Principe and Claude Parent shown at the Mori Art Museum (Tokyo) for the exhibit Archilab:  New Experiments in Architecture, Art and the City, 1950-2005.

2006:  Claude Parent is elected to the Académie des Beaux-Arts de l’Institut de France.

2010:  Retrospective of his work at the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine (Paris), with a scenography by Jean Nouvel. Claude Parent rises to the rank of Commander of the Legion of Honor.

2014:  Rem Koolhaas presents a reconstitution of Claude Parent’s Oblique living room in the exhibit Elements of Architecture, in the main pavilion of the architectural Biennale in Venice.

July 5-October 26, 2014: For the 8th Liverpool Biennial, the Tate Liverpool exhibit A needle walks into a haystack curators Mai Abu ElDahab and Anthony Huberman give Claude Parent carte blanche for the design of the exhibition space.

2015:  Inauguration of the Philharmonic of Paris that Jean Nouvel presents as an homage to Claude Parent.

February 27, 2016:  Death of Claude Parent.

September, 2016:  Exhibit of the last fashion drawings of the architect at the Azzedine Alaïa gallery (Paris).

[1] CIUP = International student residence halls in Paris.