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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

A phalanstère was a type of building designed for a utopian community and developed in the early 1800s by Charles Fourier. Based on the idea of a phalanx, this self-contained community consisted of 1,600 people working together for mutual benefit. Though Fourier was able to publish several journals in Paris, among them La Phalanstère, he created no phalanstères in Europe due to a lack of financial support. Several so-called colonies were founded in the United States of America by Albert Brisbane and Horace Greeley.

Living arrangements were fundamentally different in these, because Fourier believed that the house was a place of exile and oppressive towards women. His attitude toward gender roles was that progress could occur by shaping them within community, as they were in Kibbutzim, more than by pursuits of sexual freedom or other Simonian concepts.

The phalanstère structure

Charles Fourier thought the phalanstère as an organized building capable to integrate ideally urban and rural features.

The structure of the phalanstère was composed by three parts: a central part and two lateral wings. The central part was designed for quiet activities. It included dining rooms, meeting rooms, libraries and studies. A lateral wing was designed for labour and noisy activities such as carpentry, hammering and forging. It also hosted children because they were considered noisy while playing. The other wing contained a caravansary with its ballrooms and halls for meetings with outsiders. The outsiders had to pay a fee in order to visit and meet the people of the Phalanx community. This income was thought to sustain the autarchic economy of the phalanstère. The phalanstère also included private apartments and many social halls. A social hall was defined by Fourier as a Seristery.

Fourier's successor Victor Considérant compared the idea of the phalanstère to a steamship, asking whether it was "easier to house 1800 men right in the middle of the ocean, six hundred leaues from every shore,...than to house in a unitary construction some 1800 good peasants in the heart of Champagne or firmly on the soil of Beauce?"

This idea would be rediscovered by Le Corbusier when he designed Unité d'Habitation, a self-contained commune, at Marseilles.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Phalanstère" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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