Hope to save France’s first concrete house

Descendants of an industrialist who built the world’s first reinforced concrete house for himself have got together to save it from ruin and give it a new lease of life.

30 October 2019
By Connexion journalist

The house, in the Saint-Denis suburb of Paris, was built in 1853 by François Coignet, a maker of products such as glue, chemical fertilisers – and concrete.

Mr Coignet pioneered the use of prefabricated and reinforced concrete in building construction. He built his house next to his factory, partly as an advert for the business, to show that an entire house could be made from concrete, as opposed to more traditional materials.

Despite being classed as a historic monument since 1998, it has been derelict for more than half a century after being owned by various private companies.

Now Mr Coignet’s descendants have created the La Maison Coignet association and hope to restore the building to its former glory.

They have been canvassing ideas on how to save it.

An agreement is being negotiated to buy the house and former factory site, which is currently owned by Saria, a company which recycles butchery waste.

It plans to sell in the next two to three years, during which time the association would like to lay the foundations for its future project. The main idea so far is to make the house a place of research, training or education on sustainability, housing or social issues.

Association president Emmanuel Sala said: “The idea we propose aims to bring back the forgotten drive for social progress advocated by Coignet by using the building for activities dedicated to the environment.

“We are working with eco-construction companies and the local community.”

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