The Echos: The murals of the Tony Garnier city undergoing rehabilitation

The twenty-four murals in the Tony Garnier Urban Museum will be renovated. A symbolic operation for CitéCréation, which wishes to develop in France with the support of the Banque des territoires.

By Vincent Charbonnier

The murals of the Tony Garnier City express a certain idea of the city. They tell the story of the project of the ideal city designed by the Lyon architect, whose 150th anniversary is being celebrated this year. These twenty-four murals present the Industrial City he had imagined: its schools located on hills, its administrative centre housed in a tower, its blast furnaces, its sanitary establishments distributed in pavilions, its blocks of buildings of three floors maximum, its station, its “assembly room”, its sports centre… Some of its components, such as the abattoirs de la Mouche (now transformed into a performance hall), the Gerland stadium or the Edouard-Herriot hospital, were later built with the support of the Mayor of Lyon.

More than eight years of renovation

The architect’s social and hygienic concerns were easily integrated into Edouard Herriot’s plan to expand the city. One thousand four hundred and ten dwellings were built from 1921 onwards, using paving concrete for the first time in an industrial way. The rehabilitation of the city, between 1985 and 1997, was at the origin of the creation of the Tony Garnier Urban Museum.

The Bank of the Territories as a support

In forty years, CitéCréation has established itself as a world leader in monumental murals design. With 750 projects in the world, the cooperative studies, designs and implements all kinds of projects, “from the narrative fresco to the overall ornamental embellishment of buildings and neighbourhoods in the construction or rehabilitation phase”. On different types of buildings: housing, infrastructure, public and private facilities.

The insulation of blind gables in some buildings was used to create murals depicting the genesis of the district. This wall walk ends with three visions of the Tower of Babel.

But over time, these murals have deteriorated. A technical expertise commissioned by Grand Lyon Habitat, owner of the property complex, demonstrated the need to replace the supports for half of these murals. On the twenty-four giant facades covering 5,500 square metres, eight will be reproduced identically, eight improved, eight completely redone. This restoration work was entrusted to CitéCréation, which was first commissioned in 1988 by Greater Lyon for the rehabilitation of the district. In partnership with the Lyon-based paint manufacturer Zolpan, with whom he had already operated in the past. The latter has undertaken to provide 200 litres of paint for each fresco. This project will take eight to ten years to complete.

To move to a new level and accelerate its development in France, CitéCréation has opened its 15% capital to the Banque des territoires. “We were looking to partner with an investor who is not just a financier but who fully shares our state of mind,” explain Halim Bensaïd and Lionel Toutain Rosec, co-managers of the Lyon-based company recognized as a socially useful solidarity company (ESUS) by the Ministry of the Economy, who want to “reconcile economic efficiency and social performance”. The projects and works carried out are “systematically the result of participatory work with the inhabitants and territories”, they stress.

By subscribing to this fundraising campaign, Caisse des Dépôts’ subsidiary has undertaken to ensure that CitéCréation benefits from its proximity to social landlords and local authorities. Beyond its Lyon fiefdom, the Lyon-based cooperative, which has twenty people, including six partners, hopes to find new sources of growth without selling off its participatory DNA. It also has two sales subsidiaries in Berlin and Montreal.


Les Échos