Slums and Slabs

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IMAGE REPORT by Steven Wassenaar

Recent bidonvilles (slums) and decaying dalles (large urban centers built on slabs), two extreme urban forms in Greater Paris – harsh reality and a bygone utopia – are both regularly the theatre of police violence. It is a situation full of contradictions: the dalle as an architectural expression of the ultimate capacity to design a lifestyle, the total city for model families; the slum as a fortuitous miscellany with which the poor demand a place, make their existence visible, and evade official architecture.

All the same, their histories intertwine, for it was in the 1960s that immigrants living in shantytowns built the new towns and the slabs for the middle class, with flats whose keys would pass into the hands of the slum residents themselves a decade later. What do local authorities and other official bodies in France do when they are confronted with slums and slabs? How do they deal with the residents?

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NOTE: The IMAGE REPORT will be a returning online feature on the Volume website. Steven Wassenaar also published the article ‘Coping with Slabs and Slums’ accompanying these images in Volume 16 – ‘Engineering Society’. In the online image report photographers are given more space to present their work, so instead of the 11 photo’s in the issue here there are 27 large-sized photo’s on display online.