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In 1935, Mayor of Clichy Charles Auffray held a contest for architects to design a roof for the open air market in Rue de Lorraine (Boulevard du Général Leclerc). The architects Beaudouin and Lods, working with the engineer Vladimir Bodianski, put forward an innovative idea: they envisaged putting the space to maximum use. Their winning entry was for a ground-floor market with an upper floor to be fitted out as offices and a 1000-seater auditorium which could be converted into a cinema, housed in a fully modular building with partitions, a floor and a retractable roof.
To build what Charles Auffray was already calling the Maison du Peuple, the architects worked with Jean Prouvé. In addition to the design, he came up with innovative technical solutions for them, the most striking of which remain the curtain walls, used for the first time in Clichy: the non-load-bearing walls are simply suspended on the structure. The culmination of this pioneering steel architecture was the construction of the Georges Pompidou Centre in 1977.
The building’s history is closely linked to the events of the Popular Front and the Second World War. The colours chosen for the building were yellow for the inside and silver and red for the outside. It was fitted with a retractable glass roof, so that the upper floor could be open or closed, letting in plenty of light. Completed in August 1940, the roof could be fully removed during fine weather. At the time the foundations were laid, it was deemed worthwhile building a basement which could be used as an air-raid shelter. This is still there today, located on the Boulevard du Général Leclerc side of the building. It could accommodate 200 people living in the vicinity during air raids.
After the Second World War, the building hosted the regional congress of the National Federation of Deported and Imprisoned Resistance Fighters and Patriots. Some major rallies of the Socialist Party were also held there. Gérard Philippe performed at the Maison du Peuple in 1951. Book fairs and concerts as well as local events, such as Christmas parties, prize-givings and the Spring Salon, presenting the work of local artists, painters, sculptors, photographers and others were organised well into the 1980s.
The quality of the building and its outstanding, innovative nature led to the Maison du Peuple being listed at a historic monument in 1984.
In 1993, the building was closed to allow restoration work to be carried out under the auspices of Hervé Baptiste, chief architect responsible for listed buildings in France. This enabled its original outside appearance to be restored. All asbestos was also removed from the building. Restoration work will be completed once a project for the monument has been defined, allowing this landmark building in the Clichy landscape to come to life once again.