Butte-Rouge: the public inquiry is unfavorable

Chatenay-Malabry (Hauts-de-Seine). Complications are piling up over the demolition-rehabilitation project for the Butte-Rouge district. Led by the municipality, this urban renewal operation is coming up against opposition keen to preserve the heritage qualities of the pioneering garden city of the 1930s. After a setback before the administrative court in June 2023, another before the National Commission for Heritage and Architecture in September 2023, a public inquiry has ruled in favor of the defenders of Butte-Rouge. Concerning the contours of the remarkable heritage site (SPR) demanded by the Minister of Culture Roselyne Bachelot in 2021, the conclusions of this inquiry are severe against heritage protection at least proposed by the City of Châtenay-Malabry.

Preserving the cultural identity of Butte-Rouge

According to the municipality’s plans, the perimeter of the future SPR (protected area on which a safeguard and development plan will replace the local urban plan as the reference urban planning document) only includes part of the Butte-Rouge, without any heritage coherence emerging from the choice of areas excluded from this protection. The public inquiry, for its part, recommends extending the perimeter to the entire garden city: “I see an interest in protecting the entire site by expanding the perimeter of the SPRbelieves the rapporteur of the public inquiry in his conclusions. Therefore, work on all plots including green spaces will require the agreement of the architect of the Bâtiments de France.

Allotment garden in the garden city of Butte-Rouge Châtenay-Malabry 2019

© Azadeh AC

The public inquiry mobilized a large number of contributions, from residents and local associations, but also from professionals in architecture and heritage: 70% of them are against the perimeter proposed by the City Hall, indicate its conclusions. Contrary to the argument put forward by the City to defend its demolition-rehabilitation project, which depicts the City as an unsanitary complex that its residents want to flee, the rapporteur notes a large number of contributions evoking “happy years” spent at Butte-Rouge and an attachment to the place: “The garden city plays an important role in preserving the cultural identity of Chatenais and the collective memory of social housing,” he observes.

Although the conclusions of a public inquiry only serve as a decision-making aid for the competent authority, heritage protection associations welcome these conclusions. “With this unfavorable investigation, and (the fact that) the National Commission for Heritage and Architecture has not given a favourable opinion, we have all the elements in hand for a dispute”, says Barbara Gutglas, member of the Châtenay Patrimoine Environnement association. Keen to move this contested issue forward, the Town Hall announced last April the launch of work on a test island. “Communication! They put in parquet flooring and removed sinks, but they don’t have permission for heavier work, says Barbara Gutglas. If there had been a planning or demolition permit, we would have challenged it.”

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