The working class Gagarin of Ivry will be replaced by an eco-district


IN IMAGES – In Ivry-sur-Seine (94), the destruction of the iconic Cité Gagarin is recorded. Some 1,400 housing units, shops, equipment and urban agriculture will emerge instead of the 13-storey bar, inaugurated in 1963 by the first man to have traveled in space.

At the time of the gentrification of the Paris region, some see the destruction of the workers' city Gagarin of Ivry-sur-Seine (94), as "the end of a world". This old red suburb near Paris will be transformed into a green eco-district. Today deserted, the city still welcomed 380 families a few months ago. The destruction will be smooth. No spectacular explosion but a construction site that will spread over 16 months. During a ceremony on Saturday, August 31, residents and elected officials will say goodbye to this imposing 13-storey city delivered in 1961. The rehabilitation project provides for the construction of 1,400 new housing units, of which 30% social housing, shops, a nursery, school, gymnasium and urban agriculture areas. Total amount of the operation: 94 million euros.

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Cité Gagarin, emblem of the red suburbs

Inaugurated in 1963 by the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, it had become a symbol of the Soviet ideal. "The Gagarin city has been the international showcase of the French Communist Party (PCF)," says Emmanuel Bellanger, a CNRS researcher and specialist in the history of the suburbs. "We chose this city to welcome Gagarin and show that Ivry the Red had not been unworthy in building infrastructure."

Seen from the sky, this large set of red bricks is T-shaped. The city is emblematic of the "red belt" that surrounded Paris since the 1920s, when a myriad of communes, mostly working, were bastions of the PCF . The modern Cité Gagarin has also been the flagship of a social urbanism and a "municipal communism", incarnated by the mayor Georges Marrane and the deputy Maurice Thorez.

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"The bathroom, the big kitchen, the elevator …. It was new to us. We had never known such comfort! "Says Jacqueline Spiro, who, along with her parents, was part of the first generation of inhabitants of the city. In short, a modern city provided with comfort to which the workers had no access at the time. The former tenants of the bar remember the "fraternal" atmosphere that reigned there.

With the 1970s and the shock of deindustrialization, Gagarin became impoverished and faced recurring problems of delinquency. A few years later, it was relegated to a sensitive urban area, and became a symbol of urban decommissioning. Rules of account with shotgun, windows studded with impacts, street furniture ransacked, drug trafficking … so many evils that gangrenaient this mythical working-class city of the southern suburbs.

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In recent years, "there was a real problem of attractiveness, people refused to come and settle there, the turn-over was important," admits Romain Marchand, first deputy mayor. So it was the desire to "turn the page" that won.

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