Parisian photographer Laurent Kronental’s latest photo series, Les Yeux des Tours, captures life through the porthole windows of the Tours Aillaud—a social housing estate in the Pablo Picasso district of Nanterre. With 18 towers ranging from 7 to 38 stories high, the housing project accounts for a total of 1,600 apartments. It was designed by Emile Aillaud between 1973 and 1981 as a response to the post-war housing shortage. Kronental first came across the site in 2011 during a 4-year project photographing senior citizens living in French high-rises. The series, titled Souvenir d’un Futur, captures the “sometimes-neglected generation” in their fading environments, and the waning memory of a “modernist utopia.”
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At Tours Aillaud, all 18 towers share the same playful aesthetic, despite their height differences. Designed to merge with the sky, the cylindrical buildings are clad with colorful, cloud-like mosaic patterns by artist Fabio Rieti. One of the most intriguing features Kronental noticed was the porthole windows that seem to perforate the exterior of each tower at random. Inspired by a trip to China’s Beijing Summer Palace, Aillaud designed the windows in a range of shapes including circles, rounded squares, and teardrops. “Why such shapes? What can be seen up there? How do dwellers live in there?” Kronental asked himself. Seeking answers, Kronental returned in 2015, but this time, he took an internal perspective.
Two years in the making, the Les Yeux des Tours series captures life from inside Tours Aillaud. Many of the interiors feature homely, retro details that contrast with the outer concrete landscapes, framed by the porthole windows; yet pastel hues within often seem to match the building facades outside. “They play in harmony when the shapes and colors of the homes match the city lights,” explains Kronental. Both aspects of life merge through the porthole, which acts as a “two-way eye, the window of a flying living room, of a spaceship galley.”
Laurent Kronental’s photo series Les Yeux des Tours captures life through the porthole windows of the Tours Aillaud.
The social housing estate was designed by architect Emile Aillaud between 1973 and 1981 as a response to the post-war housing shortage.
From inside, the inhabitants’ quaint homes contrast against outer concrete landscape, framed by the porthole windows.
My Modern Met granted permission to use photos by Laurent Kronental.
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