Located in the outskirts of Paris, halfway between the French capital and Disneyland, Noisy-le-Grand looks like a piece of science fiction in the real world. This place is how modern architecture should look like, and it seems so futuristic that movie directors decided to use It as a location for movies like Brazil and The Hunger Games.
When I was planning my trip to Paris at the end of 2017, I was looking for different places to visit. I have been to Paris a few times, and I wanted to see something unusual, and then I remembered something I read back in 2015 about the unique architecture of Noisy-le-Grand.
The first place that captured my attention was the weird looking Les Espaces d’Abraxas. The second place that I wanted to visit was Les Arènes de Picasso with its circular shaped buildings. But when I got there, I discovered a whole new world of weird looking architecture that was precisely what I was looking for in this trip. Below I will tell you what I saw in the outskirts of Paris.
Les Espaces d’Abraxas in Noisy-le-Grand
When I was planning how to arrive at Noisy-le-Grand, I knew I would reach in a place called Noisy-le-Grand Mont d’Est, but I didn’t know much about it. My train took less than an hour to arrive, and when I realized that I was getting close, I got really excited. But, upon arrival at the station, I was greeted by a shopping mall that looked more suburban and regular than I was expecting. But, as soon as I stepped outside, I could see Les Espaces d’Abraxas close by, and I knew I was in the right place.
Les Espaces d’Abraxas was designed by Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill, and it looks more like a monument than a building where people live. But this is a 591-unit building complex made up of three different main parts. The Palacio is the tallest building and, with its 19 stores, it looks like something out of a video game. There are even places that looked pixelated to me, like a real-life game of Tetris. There is the Théatre with its curved section of apartments that create a plaza in the center of the complex. There is, also, an arc in the center of it all that looks like a futuristic version of the Arc de Triomphe with 20 apartments.
Les Espaces d’Abraxas in Noisy-le-Grand was built between 1978 and 1984 as an entry into the new city of Marne-la-Vallée. Ricardo Bofill wanted to create a social housing project that would mix function regarding the human scale and the aesthetics of public spaces.
After a few too many pictures all around Les Espaces d’Abraxas in Noisy-le-Grand, I decided to continue my photo walk around the buildings and started trying to find my way into Les Arènes de Picasso.
Between the two architectural complexes, I was surprised to see that there are even weirder looking buildings around Noisy-le-Grand. All around the two small artificial lakes in town, you can find unique looking buildings whose history I couldn’t find anything about. But, you can see some of the pictures I took here. I hope these images will convince you to go there even more.
Les Arènes de Picasso in Noisy-le-Grand
The buildings called Les Arènes de Picasso are organized in an octogonal layout with two circular units on both sides of it. In the middle of it, you can find a large sculpture surrounded by water. There are 540 apartments, a kindergarten, a high school, and some convenience stores.
Manolo Nunez is the architect responsible for Les Arènes de Picasso, and he decided to counterbalance the style in the surrounding area of Marne la Vallée with something a little bit different. With this in mind, the architect adopted an architectural language filled with volumes and details. All of it based on Parisian symbols that appeared on his research.
The circular buildings designed by Manolo Nunez are the highlight of Les Arènes de Picasso in Noisy-le-Grand. They are 17 stores high and are formed by two discs made of reinforced concrete that are more than 40 meters in diameter.
How to arrive at Noisy-le-Grand
Getting to Noisy-le-Grand was easy. There is a big train station in the middle of the architectural complex and, from there, you can reach everywhere easily.
You can walk around the area quickly and without worrying much but avoid taking pictures of the people that live there. Close to Les Arènes de Picasso, one guy came out of a shop to ask me about what I was doing taking pictures in the area. I told him in a broken mixture of French an English that I was just taking photos of the buildings and he didn’t care about me anymore.
This is a social housing project in the outskirts of Paris, and some people there are not used to people going close to their houses and taking pictures of everything. Understand that, and I think it will be more than fine for everybody.
Les Arènes de Picasso
Les Espaces d’Abraxas
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