Le Havre, World Heritage Site

Photo from Municipal Archives.

Rehoused in Sheds

Very far from the modern comfort reconstruction projects are planning to provide, the accommodation given to the war victims only offers a strict minimum, following a lesser known approach in the history of architecture and originating from military engineering of the 1914/1918 period.

Wooden sheds

In 1944, the initial concept of soldier shelters evolves when incorporating the comfort of a private house. The USA and Britain re-orient their war industries towards mass production of prefabricated houses.

In France, this concept of housing hardly developed, for lack of manpower and materials. After a few tentative attempts, the French Government gave up on the possibility to produce private houses on an industrial scale. War victims therefore ended up in wooden sheds distributed by the French Ministry of Reconstruction and Urbanism (M.R.U.). A few lucky people have access to prefabricated houses imported from the United States, Sweden or elsewhere.

Temporary housing lasts 10 to 15 years

Often, one has to make do with casual arrangements while waiting for reconstructed accommodation: the wait lasts ten to fifteen years, sometimes longer. Today still, important remnants can be found in Le Havre and its suburbs, offering a surprising panel of international examples: French wooden sheds, Swedish, Finnish, Austrian, and Canadian chalets or houses which constitute a heritage of temporary accommodation, become permanent thanks to inventive DIY done by the lodgers themselves. Far from the modern comfort reconstruction projects will offer, the accommodation the war victims were provided with is based on the model of military shelters designed during WWI.

In 1944, the initial concept progresses thanks to prefabrication principles based on standards applied when building American and British private houses. For lack of material and manpower and despite a few try-outs, the French Government abandons any form of industrial production of private housing.


Temporary shed housing alongside Commerce Dock around 1950.
Building site of Saint Joseph's Church, 1951.