Paris is a city of unexpected architectural extremes. Away from the postcard landmarks of the Eiffel Tower and the Champs-Élysées is a cache of futuristic landmarks straight from the pages of a sci-fi thriller…
Dresden-based photographer Philipp Gӧtze spent the summer exploring the French capital’s sci-fi enclaves, from the postmodern housing estates of its eastern suburb to its steel towers of its financial district La Défense.
‘Les Espaces d’Abraxas resembles some sort of utopian civilisation long abandoned,’ says Gӧtze of Ricardo Bofill’s housing complex in Noisy-le-Grand. ‘It became famous when the last instalment of the Hunger Games was filmed there. At the time, I wasn’t sure if they had built a set for the movie or it was a real place – I wanted to see this with my own eyes.’
Constructed in 1982, the horseshoe-shaped Les Espaces d’Abraxas is arranged around a grassy plaza that doubles as an amphitheatre. When empty, it’s easy to see how its 19-storey bulk – ornately decorated with columns and neoclassical flourishes – can take on a dystopian sci-fi feel…
Looming close by is Les Arènes de Picasso. ‘The locals actually call these buildings “les Camemberts”’, Gӧtze explains of the enormous disc-like structures that bookend the octagonal housing estate. The handiwork of another Spaniard (Manuel Núñez Yanowsky), the round buildings are actually meant to evoke the wheels of an overturned chariot.
‘Each estate feels like a separate little city, with its own atmosphere each time,’ says Gӧtze.
Heading west to Paris’ business district, this brand of ‘futurism’ takes a different bent: concrete and brick have been swapped for steel and glass at La Défense, with angular skyscrapers carving up the sky.
Though La Défense’s glistening towers might fall short of ‘supertall’ stature, they possess an edginess which excites Gӧtze. ‘I like that it’s still constantly changing and at times feels like it’s “in development”. Walking around it is a surreal experience.’