French Encounters with the American Counterculture 1960-1980  book cover
1st Edition

French Encounters with the American Counterculture 1960-1980

ISBN 9781409423867
Published November 28, 2011 by Routledge
244 Pages

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Book Description

French-American interrelationships in the areas of design and creative thinking have been under-acknowledged. It is normally asserted that French architects looked to North America for technical lessons in the development of modern architecture in the 1960s but that the French cultural environment was generally hostile to American ideas. This book includes interviews with French architects who visited the United States in the 1960s-1970s and then assumed influential positions in the press and education in France. Some of these architects found in non-mainstream America and its radical groups of architectural drop-outs a liberating force, free of the taint of American capitalism and the high-investment technology. Often living in alternative student communities, they saw highly innovative, low-cost technical and structural systems placed in the service of collective forms of living which represented a critique not only of professional architectural practice but also of bourgeois forms of living. Many of them also studied in American schools of architecture and came in contact with an intellectual and interdisciplinary style of architectural education unavailable in France at that time.

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface; Introduction; Framing the debates around technology; Discovering the alternative scene: from Sausolito to Drop City; Documenting the architectural counterculture; Exhibiting vernacular structures and marginal architecture in France; Publication networks in the United States: from the Whole Earth catalog to Shelter; Counter culture à la française: self-build, publishing, teaching and research {XE 'culture alternative'}; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.

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Caroline Maniaque-Benton is associate professor at the École Nationale Supérieure d'Architecture Paris-Malaquais where she teaches the history of architecture. She received her doctoral degree from University Paris-VIII. She is the author of Le Corbusier and the Maisons Jaoul (Princeton Architectural Press, 2009). She has received a Fulbright Scholarship and a Fellowship of the Canadian Centre for Architecture.


'A marvelous cross-cultural trip, Caroline Maniaque-Benton's new book authoritatively traces the quixotic excursions of the American counterculture into "alternative architecture" from the transatlantic perspective of France. Based on interviews with many of the protagonists and vividly illustrated, the author explores the juncture of do-it-yourself aesthetics, radical politics, and ecological consciousness. The book is all the more timely at a moment when the nascent environmentalism of the 1960s is coming to full fruition around the world.' Joan Ockman, Columbia University, USA 'The book also constitutes a remarkable visual document, as Maniaque-Benton has managed to gather photos from personal albums, as well as bits of ephemera the survival of which is nothing short of miraculous. Covers and illustrations from obscure journals such as La face cachée du soleil, and Icosa are beautifully reproduced in French Encounters... Maniaque-Benton convincingly sets up the encounter between French and American experimental architecture as a prelude to the contemporary scene, offering much historical and ideological material on which to meditate in assessing the mandate of 'sustainable design'.' H-France 'Maniaque-Benton’s careful primary research (she visited many iconic sites and interviewed key American protagonists, such as Steve Baer), her command of the most current cultural and architectural scholarship on the counterculture and her lively prose combine to make this book a significant contribution to the scholarship of American counterculture and alternative architecture. The numerous accompanying images are superb, and include travel photographs imbued with a wonderful immediacy and energy, beautifully reproduced magazine covers, and views of exhibition displays.' Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians