Le Havre, World Heritage Site

7th April 1955, Général de Gaulle.

Everyday life

The reconstruction of Le Havre, however emblematic, stands on a hidden difficult pre-requisite. 12 000 new flats are needed, whereas only 4 000 emergency housing units will be on offer. 1 630 of these are listed in June 1946 including 470 small re-used brick houses (emergency housing and temporary shopping centres), 700 French sheds, 290 prefabricated American sheds and 170 Swedish chalets.

To which must be added 1 550 housing units provided by three military camps, transformed into housing from 1946 to 1948: 300 in the city centre François 1er site, 650 in the Montgeon Forest and  600 in Gonfreville l’Orcher, a close suburb.

The sheds

While waiting for temporary housing, the homeless pile into the buildings spared by the bombs or move away. Allotting the sheds, considered as State property and of varying quality, is done following drastic selection.

The destruction did not do away with hierarchy and societal codes to do with reputation and merit: who can be employed towards economic recovery comes before poor squatters, who get sent further away and sometimes to very basic camps.

The victims of life

When the Reconstruction is ending, during the second half of the 1950’s, the bombing victims have been given new flats and the camps, from now on, house “the victims of life”, as expressed by Eugène Claudius Petit (French minister of the Reconstruction). The problem is now a different one: temporary housing of good quality has been sold to their tenants and the rest is given into the hands of Social Services.

The history of temporary housing blends into that of shanty towns. Their destruction is planned within the Renouvellement Urbain (the decree for Urban Renewal Planning of December 31st 1958). This decree demands the creation of large housing schemes mostly built on the very sites of temporary housing camps.

Montgeon

Within the Montgeon Forest, in an old American camp geared for soldiers in transit, lodgers who previously applied to the local representative of the MRU (Ministry of Reconstruction and Urbanism), are allotted sheds in the shape of a half-circle, locally and poetically known as “half-moons”. American soldiers had equipped these sheet-metal sheds with a pipe system, therefore the sheds offer everyday life commodities. Some will go as far as say they were “the villas of the post-war era”.

Slideshow

Temporary shed housing on Dal Piaz street, Aplemont district.
Map of temporary housing in Montgeon Forest.