20th century heritage

The ‘buildings’ on the Quai Gambetta 

Facing the port on the Quai Gambetta, there are four towers of dizzying dimensions which symbolise the reconstruction of Boulogne-sur-Mer after the horrors of the Second World War. 

They are known in Boulogne-sur-Mer as the ‘buildings’. It is impossible to miss them on the Quai Gambetta. There are four of them, they are huge and are real colossuses. They are the work of the architect, Pierre Vivien who had the mammoth task of rebuilding Boulogne-sur-Mer and its suburbs from 1945 onwards. In the aftermath of the conflict, the port city was flattened, with 85% of it completely destroyed. The Quai Gambetta, which was such a key area of port activity, did not exist any more... In addition to the buildings for the ‘Chambre de Commerce et des Ponts et Chaussées’, the architect designed plans for four buildings which, by their unusual height, location and layout have established themselves as symbols for the reconstruction of Boulogne. 

Grandeur and modernity

The four towers, through their monumental stature, tell of the importance which was placed on providing accommodation after the Second World War. Each of the buildings is 40 metres high and has twelve floors. The shops on the ground floor are in keeping with pre-war tradition, as are the hotels on the first floor. The offices on the second floor have nine floors above them dedicated exclusively to housing and divided into apartments. The latter have 4 or 5 rooms and combine all the components of the new post-war lifestyle: well-defined common and private spaces, bathrooms, adjustable heating, rubbish chutes, etc., plus collective ‘facilities’ such as elevators. The buildings on the Quai Gambetta illustrate a new style of living. They are a masterpiece in terms of modernity. 

Quite a symbol

Their oblique orientation has been worked out according to the sunshine, prevailing winds and view of the sea. Completed in 1955, these four buildings have been awarded the ‘reconnaissance du patrimoine du XXème siècle’(recognition of 20th century heritage) accreditation by the Minster for Culture in 2009. As a result, after having been neglected for a long time, the significance in terms of heritage of the reconstruction has officially been recognised. Beyond their silhouette, their multi-coloured façades and their size, these towers are strong symbols of peace, resilience and rebirth.