Steel, aluminium, plastic: the "unbearable lightness" of architectural modernity. The Centrale d'Allocations Familiales building of the XV th Arrondissement in Paris (1953-1959)
The Caisse Centrale d’Allocations Familiales de la Région Parisienne (or CCAFRP, shortened to CAF) was built between 1953 and 1959 as regional headquarters of a new post-war agency, the Central Fund for Family Allowance. Designed by French architects Raymond López (1904-1966) and Michel Holley (b. 1924), it was a work of enlightened modernity, in which the architects broke new ground in terms of urban concept, structural design, engineering and specification. A spectacular steel frame supported facades of tubular aluminium sections, with translucent panels of reinforced polyester infill. The CAF would be the talk of the town, hailed by the press as a "world first" in its assertive, not to say militant deployment of the most innovative technical and constructional solutions. One can argue that in the CAF, technical innovation was more than just the guiding principle of the design – that it became in effect the essence of a truly new paradigm in modern architecture.