The “Familistère”, created in 1859 by Jean Baptiste Godin, was an industrial commune in the french town of Guise. Godin was aware of the very bad living conditions of the workers at that time and wanted to provide appartements in close distance to his factory. Inspired by the theories of Fourier, he designed a social palace for his workers, offering the “equivalents of wealth” through different services to each inhabitant.
The general principles for the organisation of the Familistère were founded on what Godin considered the three main human needs: air, light and space. The architecture of the spaces therefore follow a pragmatic thinking. The dwelling units for example are simple moduls, that can vary inbetween the firewalls depending on the number of possible occupants and not on their rank in the enterprise.
CLOSED ECONOMY, LABOUR DIVISION & CULTURE
The Godin factory was divisioned into different manufactory ateliers. Each atelier took care of one specific step in the production line. Employees were male and female and even the design of decorative elements were made inside these ateliers. The canteen and other retail facilities supplied not only the members of the Familistère but also the population of Guise with all goods of prime necessity: food, clothing, furniture, fuel, watches and clocks. Prices of the familistere and the current price inside the village of Guise were always compared on a table in the central courtyard of the Familistère. Due to its lower offers, the Familistère became an unpopular competitor for the village tradesman and artisans. Bounded by a watercourse, the Familistère had the aspects of a veritable industrial estate. Educational, cultural, commercial, gardening and stock-rearing functions meant that it could operate as a closed economy.
With a view to ensuring that the workers of the Familistère benefited to the full from the “equivalents of wealth”, the firm of Godin was converted, from 1880 onwards, into a cooperative association of capital and labour. This meant that the workers participated in the company profits. The initial capital, gradually converted into investment capital, became the collective property of the association.
Their were numerous games and entertainements at the Familistère. Different cultural institutions as for example the Brass Band of the Familistère represented one of the legacies of the cultural system of groups and unions of groups brought together by elective affinity in Fourier’s system. Godin tried to enable the workers to witness the represantation of their rise in the social scale. The theater of the Familistère, not only served as catalyst for social aspirations, it was also a kind of apprenticeship for public life. The elocution classes, lectures and general lessons held there conferred on it a function that was educative rather than entertaining.
5th semester Arch Bsc ETH
Studio Milica Topalovic
In collaboration with Oliver Burch