Modernist master of the oblique, Claude Parent, passes away at 93

International Obit
A drawing by Claude Parent of his Bridge Cities project, with Paul Virilio. (Ben Lepley / Flickr)

A drawing by Claude Parent of his Bridge Cities project, with Paul Virilio. (Ben Lepley / Flickr)

Claude Parent passed away over the weekend in Paris, a day after his 93rd birthday on Friday. He was one of the most influential modernist architects to come out of France and founder of the oblique function.

(Courtesy Wikipedia)

Sainte Bernadette du Balay (Courtesy Wikipedia)

Parent’s aesthetic style is widely acknowledged for paving the way for architects such as Zaha Hadid, Daniel Libeskind, and Frank Gehry. His style often bears the hallmark of angled walls and roofing, articulating space in such way that had not been seen before on such a scale.

The oblique style was developed with the help of urban planner and cultural philosopher Paul Virilio who drew inspiration from the disorientating properties of World War II bunkers that slumped down among sand dunes, hence obscuring the threshold between floor and walls. Together, Parent and Virilio formed Architecture Principe. Notable works include Sainte Bernadette du Balay at Nevers, France.

Sainte Bernadette du Balay (LucEdouard / Flickr)

Sainte Bernadette du Balay (LucEdouard / Flickr)

A close friend of Parent, French architect and academic Odile Decq wrote in 2005: “If someone tells you that Claude Parent is over 80, do not believe it.” 

“His indignation is one that galvanizes and helps you to think about your dreams become possible. This drug is without any danger: it is a necessary prescription for the today’s students in architecture, fully invested in project reality but all frustrated with their dreams about tomorrow’s living,” she went on to say. “Though often on the edge, his own heart never broke down, repaired by surgeries on the side road, some oblique roads, so strong and intense was the energy Claude put in it.”

Today, Decq added to her comments of eleven years ago. “Even if it has been repaired multiple times, last Saturday, while becoming 93, his heart has dropped off and I have lost a friend who was shaking my head to go further. See you soon, Claude!”

Parent was rewarded for his contributions to architecture in 1979 when he claimed the Grand National Prize for Architecture. In 2010, he was awarded the title of Commander of the Legion of Honour, one of the highest decorations France can offer.

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