Essential Architecture-  Paris

Les Orgues "The Organs"


Martin S. Van Treek,


67-107 Avenue de Flandre, 19th.






masonry, concrete frame


Apartment Building

Orgues de Flandre

The residential towers of the Orgues de Flandre, in Paris 19th arrondissement.The Orgues de Flandre, which can be translated as Organs of Flanders, are a group of residential buildings located in the 19th arrondissement of Paris, France.

Built from 1974 to 1980 by the architect Martin van Trek, the buildings are located at 67-107 avenue de Flandre and 14-24 rue Archereau. The buildings are a housing project of 6 ha, made of many buildings of 15 floors and four dominating towers:

Tour Prélude (or Tour 1): 123 meters, 38 floors.
Tour Fugue (or Tour 2): 108 meters, 32 floors.
Tour Cantate (or Tour 3): 101 meters, 30 floors.
Tour 4: 90 meters, 25 floors.
Little good came from the public housing projects of this period. About all that can be said in their favor is that people were housed. Not well, and not always willingly, but housed with running water, nonetheless. Les Orgues is a good example of the aggressive urban planning carried out in the Northeast of Paris. The 11th, 12th, 19th and 20th arrondissements have traditionally been left-wing; during the Occupation, most Resistance members came from these areas (while the wealthy 6th, 7th, and 16th merrily collaborated.) The Northeast has also traditionally been home for any newcomers to the city. In the 60s, Paris powers-that-be decided to eradicate the unsanitary poor sections of Paris; this was part of the rational behind the Tour Montparnasse. In the northeast, Belleville, Menilmontant, Faubourg Saint-Antoine, and this part of Avenue de Flandres were specifically targeted. Fortunately, some sectors fought back; Belleville and Saint-Antoine continue to be exciting and historic neighborhoods. But Flandres was not so lucky. An enormous and vital quartier was torn down here to make way for the 1,950 apartments housed in Les Orgues. This conglomeration of buildings is supposed to represent the pipes of an enormous church organ (no doubt a bizarre reference for the largely Muslim immigrant population that lives here.) Although quite safe to walk through, unlike several similar projects in the Parisian suburbs, the dusty central gardens and tagged tiles confirm the feeling of dislocation promoted by this style of architecture. It’s amazing proof of human resilience that children actually play here, laughing amid the monoliths.


By Lisa Pasold (Special thanks to