Christian de Portzamparc - 20th century French architect

Christian de Portzamparc is one of the most honored contemporary French architects living today. The first French winner of the Pritzker prize, one of the world’s most prestigious architecture prizes, de Portzamparc is considered an urbanist, and is well regarded for his projects that blend together classical forms, modernist radicalism, and postmodern, nonconformist approaches to design.

Born in Casablanca, Morocco in 1944, de Portzamparc’s family is of French Breton heritage. De Portzamparc graduated from the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1969, a traditionalist school where he studied architecture under Eugene Beaudoin and George Candilis. During the time of de Portzamparc’s tutelage, there was great social upheaval in the world and especially France, with strikes, student riots, and a general movement towards leftist philosophy.

This period of social upheaval was very influential on de Portzamparc and his peers. There was a great debate among architects whether architecture was a bourgeois art form, or a potential tool for social revolution. De Portzamparc attempted to merge pragmatism and politics realistically – by adopting an attitude that architects could influence the world in a positive manner, he approached architecture as something that should be realized carefully, as it could have a great impact on its environment and the culture surrounding it.

By the time de Portzamparc opened his own agency in 1980, he had already won much acclaim for his work - most notably, for his 1979 Rue des Hautes-Formes housing project. This project, located in southeast Paris, included renovations of a pre-existing structure that more resembled a penitentiary than homes. De Portzamparc opened up the spaces, adding balconies and awnings in order to make the spaces brighter and more livable. His work was so effective that he won another commission to add to his work on the complex.

De Portzamparc has committed his philosophy to every building project he has undertaken, from the simple to the complex – whether it is a small neighborhood structure or a skyscraper - he is focused on the what, where, and who, and how his buildings affect the quality of life of the area, neighborhood, and resident. This philosophy was honored by the Pritzker Prize in 1994. In 2006, de Portzamparc was chosen to be the first to occupy the ‘artistic creation’ chair at the Collège de France. De Portzamparc continues his work today with buildings all over the world.

Some of de Portzamparc’s most notable works in France:

Société Générale tower, La Défense in Paris (2001-2008) Hotel Renaissance Wagram in Paris (2003-2008) Headquarters for the press group Le Monde in Paris (2001-2004) The City of Music in Paris (1984-1995)