Sunday, 27 April 2014

L’Usine dans la Prairie

The large-format weekly magazine, L’Illustration had been published for 90 years (since 1843) when, with great pride and fanfare, a prestigious new office and print works was opened at Bobigny in the Parisian banlieu. A special issue bulged with photos and architects’ impressions of the nine-storey colossus towering over the hitherto undeveloped fields of the north-western suburbs. The central tower with its giant clock-faces and the stylistic concessions to Art Deco seem designed for another era of success which, unfortunately failed to materialise. During the Occupation of Paris the magazine became a mouthpiece for the Vichy regime and their Nazi masters with the result that it was permanently closed within weeks of the Liberation in 1944. In terms of Graphic Design it was conservative and unimaginative and followed a dreary template similar to that of the Illustrated London News and demonstrated that a large page size was not enough to achieve visual impact. The building still exists – it’s now home to a local university. The bucolic surroundings have not fared well, being swallowed up in the suburban sprawl that now extends for many miles, as far as the CDG airport. 

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