The key actors -Season 1

The Cité owes its existence to the imagination, the humanism and the perseverance of a few exceptional people – politicians, intellectuals, industrialists and patrons – who surrounded themselves with the best designers, to create a “human relations school for peace”

by Lucille Testard de Marans

The founders

André HONNORAT: the humanist politician

As Member of Parliament for the Basses-Alpes, André HONNORAT took on the issue of accommodation for students and during the debates on the reclassification of the fortifications, he succeeded in making sure that the land was reserved for the use of the University of Paris, for the construction of “student housing”.

In 1920, by now Minister of Education, HONNORAT was inspired by the project proposed by DEUTSCH DE LA MEURTHE and with the backing of similar requests from countries abroad, he conceived, defended and then realised his plan for an international university “Cité”, which would be a place where deserving students from all over the world, who shared the ideals of the rapprochement of nations, could live and study. The project thus took on an international and even diplomatic dimension.

Consequently, HONNORAT became the first President of the “National Foundation for the Development of the Cité universitaire”, a private foundation recognised as being in the public interest in 1925, with the task of ensuring that the whole project was managed and developed in a coherent manner. Moreover, HONNORAT, together with Jean BRANET, who was to become the first Secretary General of the Fondation nationale, drew up the Articles of Association.

Paul APPELL: Rector and mediator

Rector of Paris, Paul APPELL concerned himself with the material conditions of student life. From 1920 onwards, he intensified the number of appeals for patronage and sponsorship to finance the construction of student accommodation. It was he, who in 1920 introduced Emile DEUTSCH DE LA MEURTHE, a philanthropic industrialist, to André HONNORAT, the Minister of Education, when DEUTSCH DE LA MEURTHE told him of his intention to build accommodation for 350 students.

The financiers

Emile DEUTSCH DE LA MEURTHE: industrialist and patron

A businessman from Lorraine and head of the Pétroles Jupiter concern, but also a philanthropist, DEUTSCH DE LA MEURTHE promised Paul APPELL that he would construct two “garden-hamlets” to provide “healthy, airy lodgings surrounded by greenery” in keeping with the public hygiene concerns of the time for 350 deserving students of limited means. DEUTSCH DE LA MEURTHE donated 10 million gold francs for the implementation of this project. Thus, he became the first patron of the Cité.

David DAVID-WEILL: Banker and philanthropist

A Parisian banker and already a patron of the University of Paris, he was the second patron to whom HONNORAT and APPELL turned for assistance. Thus, on several occasions, he donated several million gold francs to the Fondation nationale and in 1925 he became its first Treasurer.

André HONNORAT (on the right) on the occasion of the inauguration of the Maison du Japon, 1927

Apart from Emile DEUTSCH DE LA MEURTHE and David DAVID-WEILL, the first patrons of the Cité, other private individuals, from France and abroad, as well as Schools and Governments  made it possible, through their willingness to participate in the humanist project and through their generous gifts of finance, to construct 19 residences in the period 1925-1938.

The designers

Lucien BECHMANN: the architect and J.C.N. FORESTIER: the town planner

Consultant Architect for the Fondation, Lucien BECHMANN was tasked with designing the plan for the whole Cité. In close collaboration with Jean Claude Nicolas FORESTIER and later, Léon AZEMA, he created a succession of several land management plans while the Cité continued to expand. He gave the Cité its character as “garden-city” by linking built areas with areas for walking and sports pitches.

Lucien BECHMANN was also the architect for the Fondation DEUTSCH DE LA MEURTHE and the two lodges at the entrance to the Cité Internationale.

DUDOK and the others: architects of renown for residences of excellence

At this time, other architects of renown, both French and foreign, contributed to the work of the Cité. Among the best known: Willem Marinus DUDOK (Collège néerlandais, 1938), Albert LAPRADE (Fondation Abreu de Grancher, 1933) and LE CORBUSIER (Fondation suisse, 1933).