Notre Dame — that’s a big, impressive building. As is the new Fondation Louis Vuitton museum. But just outside Paris, two sets of vast edifices make humans look like tiny, computer-generated characters in science fiction film crowd scenes. These colossal apartment buildings each have over 500 units and, at least when I visited, loom over quiet, empty courtyards.
Inside the courtyard of les Arènes de Picasso, surrounded by two huge cylindrical buildings, I felt I was in a Peruvian sacred site on top of a mountain, one where hundreds might gather for a sacrifice. It’s immense. Built in the early 1980s by a Spanish architect, Manuel Núñez Yanowsky, the buildings are sometimes called The Camembert, referring to the two huge circles on their sides. The blog untapped cities says the architect wanted to evoke not the beloved French cheese but the wheels of an overturned chariot, which are aligned parallel to the Equator. A traffic accident of yore doesn’t seem to me like the best inspiration for someone’s home.
A few minutes walk away sits the Espaces d’Abraxas, a monumental arc of a building across from several hulking structures that make you crane your neck all. the. way. back. to see straight up to the top. This site was used both in the film Brazil and in the third Hunger Games movie, and really should make an appearance in more films. The architect, another Spaniard named Ricardo Bofil, said in an interview with Le Monde that his approach was the opposite of Le Corbusier and his anonymous apartment blocks. Not much you could do to make these structures more anonymous, or ominous.
To get to these buildings, take the RER A to Noisy Le Grand and exit to these welcoming Mad Max bulls.