Firminy is a town with a proud mining past, which saw its population increase during the 19th and the 20th centuries thanks to the growth of the metallurgy industry. In 1953, Eugène Claudius-Petit, the Mayor, carried out a social and economic assessment of the town in order to accurately determine the needs of the population. This assessment clearly revealed the low quality of the area’s housing, in addition to a lack of hygiene and comfort.
With this in mind, for the first stage of his urban planning programme, Eugène Claudius-Petit envisaged a renovation of the town centre and the creation of a new district : Firminy-Vert, or « green Firminy ».
This new district, which was to be created by four architects, (Charles Delfante for the urban planning aspects, accompanied by Jean Kling, Marcel Roux and André Sive) proposed a radically different urban
style to that used for the former « black Firminy ». These architects carried out their work based on the principles laid down in the « Athens charter » (drafted in 1933 during the fourth International
Congress of Modern Architecture), which drew heavily upon the main ideas of the architect Le Corbusier.
This charter stipulated the need to set aside a high percentage of land area for green, landscaped spaces. The four key functions underpinning this theory were « living, working, leisure and traffic ». It was felt that people should have an opportunity to achieve self-fulfillment in an environment in which « sun, space and greenery » were the key features.
From 1957 onwards, 1070 low rent homes were created, accompanied by collective services such as schools, social centres and shops. The various communication routes were organised based on a strict hierarchy, ranging from pedestrian streets up to main roads. This development scooped the Grand Prix National d’Urbanisme (urban planning national award) in 1961 and is today protected as part of an Architectural, Urban and Landscape Protection Area (AVAP). From 1954 onwards, Le Corbusier worked on the « civic centre » comprising four buildings : the cultural centre, the stadium, the swimming pool and the church of Saint-Pierre.
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