French public housing

Tuesday 8 September 2020, 8.00pm HKT


ARCHITECTURE & SOCIETY

Above: Typical British council housing at Alexandra Road Estate in Camden, London. Photo by Steve Cadman.

What’s the French equivalent of British council estates?

They have them around Paris for all the immigrants. What are they called?

Above: Cité radieuse de Marseille by the Swiss architect Le Corbusier.

In French, they are most usually called HLM (aash ell’emm) — short for habitation à loyer modéré (ahbita-s’yong ah-loy-yae mawday-ray), literally ‘moderate rent housing.’ Sometimes an estate with several HLM blocks is called la cité HLM (“HLM city”).

La téci (tay-SI) is the verlan (backslang) for the HLM estate. Téci is just the word cité back to front. It’s used for expressing “the Ghetto” or “the ’Hood” or “the Street.” It’s rather an apt word to show the HLMs are the ‘back’ side of the city.

Not all HLMs are low or mediocre quality. Some of the oldest HLMs are pretty tony, such as the 93-year-old privately run ICF Habitat in Paris. Just click the link. That’s HLM done right.

Aside:— A lot of French slang is verlan. The syllables or sounds of normal words are loosely reversed or inverted. It is a rather effective way to convey the negative flavour of something. The verlan spelling don’t necessarily have precise mapping with the normal spelling. La métro is la tromé as a craptastic entity. Français (‘French’) becomes céfran. Meuf is slang for ‘woman’ (femme : mmefe) and keum for ‘bloke/dude’ (mec : cem). Indeed, the term ‘verlan’ itself verlan and derived from “à l’envers” (back to front, upside down).

HLMs are low-rent, state-owned housing, as all “public housing” is (or supposed to be).

Europe is a Brutalist dystopia, yet Brutalism originated with the British.


Below is the 1980 single “Dans mon H.L.M.” (“In My H.L.M.”) by Renaud. Its lyrics is said to have entered into the French collective consciousness.

All images via cable6 (pronounced “kah’bler seece”).


© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 08 Sept 2020. (B18028)


8.15pm local time, 13°C (55°F), cool and overcast

TO HELL with Valentine’s Day — either you got lucky … or back to the Vaseline with your girlfriend whose name ends in .JPG. Massage your pain to the rhythm of our signature tunes.

This is the long-awaited follow-up to the post “Burn your bridges before arriving there” (27 Jan 2014).

By the way, I’m totally sloshed with IKEA Akavit Snaps (Swedish schnapps) so this post isn’t gonna make much sense to anybody…

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