The Maison du Val, an apartment complex founded on the principles of self-managed housing, opened in Meudon (in the south-western suburbs of Paris) in 1980. It was initially home to 10 families, comprising 18 adults and 27 children. The complex takes the form of a U-shaped building of between three and six storeys. In addition to the 10 family apartments – each of which is different, and some of which are interconnected – and the garden in the centre of this compact site, the group decided to give a prominent role to communal spaces, which together amount to more than 250 m² (2,700 sq. ft). In doing so, they gave a physical embodiment to the core value of this project: a desire to share. Over the years, these facilities have accommodated a variety of functions: a parental crèche, choir rehearsals, monthly residents’ meetings over dinner, painting and pottery workshops, and even two studio apartments intended for visiting family members or for people in emergency housing situations.
Alain His, born in 1937, is married with four grown-up children, and an engineer by profession. He was one of the founders – along with nine other families – of the SCIA (société civile immobilière d’attribution, a non-trading real-estate company granting co‑property rights to each member of the group) for the Maison du Val, where he has lived since 1980. At the time, the MHGA (Mouvement pour l’Habitat Groupé Autogéré, or Movement for Self-Managed Group Housing; now known as Éco Habitat Groupé), to which the residents of the Maison du Val were affiliated, included around 100 projects of this type. Here, Alain His talks about the beginnings of the Maison du Val and the residents’ expectations of the development.
What was the guiding philosophy behind the creation of the Maison du Val in Meudon?
Could you tell us a little about the design process and your working relationship with the architect?
How has life in the Maison du Val changed over the years?
Does self-managed housing induce a different way of life?