Went to Lille last weekend. A Brutalist’s dream. Windswept bare-tree people-less boulevards. Flyovers bisecting reflecting glass office blocks. Council estates sucking up the pollution. This was our first impression.
Out along Boulevard Emile Dubuisson, past Avenue du President John Fitzgerald Kennedy to the corner of Boulevard du President Hoover and Boulevard Louis XIV. We found our serviced apartment on a street that didn’t exist on the far edge of a building site accessed via a service road behind an huge anonymous building of some state department. To enter we had to phone a call centre who-knows-where to be given an access code. The kids loved it.
This would be an ideal psychogeographer’s weekend away (we’re here with two young children on a birthday celebration though). The city’s zones are precisely demarcated. The Brutalist Zone that we first encountered. The immigrant area around Boulevard Jean-Baptiste Lebas. The cultural quarter centred around the Museum of Fine Art. The upmarket artisan district in the winding streets of Rue Lepelletier. Avenue Le Corbusier is pure concrete dystopia where policemen, drunks, skateboarders and Eurostar travellers intermingle around the Euralille shopping mall. Lines of tension and hybrid zones I imagine stretch between these areas. We only glimpsed this briefly in the hunt for food led by a rampant toddler and a foraging 3-year old.
If The Situationists developed psychogeography to unpick the modernist legacy and critique the work Corbusier then this would put Lille on the frontline of the struggle. Although there didn’t seem to be much evidence of conflict the weekend that I blew through. Maybe we were too distracted by the chocolate waffles.