Villeurbanne, Lyon metropolis, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France

Villeurbanne is a municipality bordering Lyon, located in the metropolis of Lyon in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. Villeurbanne is the second-largest city in the metropolitan area of Lyon and the 20th most populated in France. In 2013, Villeurbanne was elected the city with the best administration of France, which attracts more and more people. With 147,712 inhabitants in 1st January 2017. It is the town in suburban most populated of France.

Villeurbanne have been inhabited as far back as 6000 BC, and has belonged to the kingdom of France since 1349. Until the 19th century, the city was merely a patchwork of distinct villages separated by fields and undeveloped land. These villages have mostly survived, and nowadays form the neighborhoods of Charpennes, Cusset, Croix-Luizet, Maisons-Neuves, etc.

With the industrial era, Villeurbanne’s economy soared: the textile industry was the first to bloom, followed by mechanical and chemical ones. The factories lured in numerous immigrants, most notably from Italy. Transforming from a rural community to an industrial town, Villeurbanne underwent a tremendous demographic boom in the late 1920s.

Mayor Lazare Goujon (elected 1924) engaged the city in a vast public works initiative. Arguably the most visible heritage of this program is the Gratte-Ciel, a housing complex made up of two Art Deco towers and annex smaller buildings, lining up along the Avenue Henri Barbusse. These structures are the work of architect Môrice Leroux, and one of the most notable Art Deco structures in France. Having undergone thorough renovation, the 19-story twin towers have become an emblem of the city.

Middle Ages
In the 14th century, the town of Villeurbanne was part of the Dauphiné Viennese, feudal state, the Rhône was the western border. Lyon was then in foreign territory, and maintained sometimes strained relations with Villeurbanne.

At the end of the reign of the Dauphin Humbert II of Viennois, in 1349, Villeurbanne was attached at the same time as the province of Dauphiné de Viennois to the Kingdom of France then under the reign of King Philippe VI of Valois. The village nevertheless continued to be part of the province of Dauphiné, until the suppression of the administrations of the Ancien Régime by the Revolution.

French Revolution
In 1790, Villeurbanne then joined the brand new department of Isère, of which Grenoble was the capital, and was included in the district of Vienne. Also during the Revolution, the town of Villeurbanne broke away from the mandement (the seigneury) of Vaulx-en-Velin, and elected Étienne Debourg as first mayor.

The 19th century and the 20th century
Essentially agricultural, the town gained in importance with the establishment in 1837 and then in the 1850s of dikes to contain the Rhone, whose episodic floods hitherto covered a large part of the plain. This protection against floods allowed the establishment of factories in the district of Charpennes, factories that one lives also break ground early in the 19th century below the current spot Grandclément. In 1852, the city was detached from the department of Isère (in the arrondissement of Vienne), and joined the department of Rhône . At that time, however, she refused to be attached to the city ofLyon, unlike other suburbs like Vaise, la Guillotière or la Croix-Rousse. However, Lyon appropriated, by passing a law in 1894, the part of the Parc de la Tête d’Or located in the town of Villeurbanne to continue its policy of absorbing its periphery.

Towards the end of the 19th century, Villeurbanne is growing rapidly as industrial suburb of Lyon (characteristic that is still reflected today by a political anchor left). From 1899, Villeurbanne took advantage of the proximity of the Cusset factory on the Jonage canal, a low-head hydroelectric power station. Villeurbanne thus participates in the expansion of Lyon, electricity energizing textiles, mechanics and chemicals, by adding its own activities. A large Glassworks Workers will employ specialists in glass and the Art which results from it.

During the war of 14-18, Lyon companies and withdrawn companies embarked on radio equipment (first built on rue Racine) and various innovative subcontracting such as automobile electricity. A radiotelegraph transmitter making the link between America and Russia is installed in 1914 on the military field of La Doua; the infrastructure then has eight pylons 120 m high. Manpower is lacking, salaries are modest but promotions are quick. In addition to workers reformed or recalled from the front, women were hired, then colonials or foreigners. The Tonkin district houses many Vietnamese workers, required for Lyon’s chemical industries. Villeurbanne also saw the establishment of an important Italian colony.

In 1927, Lazare Goujon launched the construction of the skyscraper district. It is both a social program and an urban planning program creating a new center, with a view to accelerating the merger of the constituent villages. This area hosts in 1934 the town hall to replace the old set up Julius Grandclément, inaugurated February 2, 1904. In the 1930s, Henri Seguin, son of the killed de Verdun created his company of Art bronzes, which subsequently provided the lighting for many town halls, after the war of 1939/45, when he was in Lyon, end of Cours Henri (now Doctor Long’s course), craftsman by day and FFI by night with his brother-in-law, former sailor.

In 1944, during the Villeurbanne insurrection, the city was liberated by the FTP-MOI and the Union des juifs pour la Résistance shortly before the arrival of the troops landed in Provence, then taken over by the Germans, and again liberated. During the Second World War, many Resistance fighters were arrested by a criminal Gestapo led by Barbie, between Villeurbanne and Montchat (such as Doctor Long), the resistance networks having branches in all the districts of the metropolis.

The action of municipalities in the development of primary and vocational education in Villeurbanne in the first half of the 20th century plays an important role in the subsequent careers of children of the commune.

On the ground of a former barracks begins in 1957 the construction of the INSA of Lyon, It is joined later by the University Claude-Bernard, thus constituting at the Doua a renowned campus of a hundred hectares.

Since 1960, factories and small properties have been gradually replaced by apartment buildings, facilitating housing for the middle classes.

The 21th century
Greater Lyon disappears on 1 st January 2015, and leaves room for the local authority of the metropolis of Lyon.

Historical heritage
Through its architectural audacity, its artistic avant-garde and the numerous testimonies of its industrial past, Villeurbanne has an unclassifiable heritage, which today makes its charm and its difference. As you stroll through the city’s districts, you will discover essential places, vast flagship projects by their architecture and others less visible, more modest, but which also participate in the history of the city.

Town Hall (1934)
The project by the Lyon architect Robert Giroud was chosen in 1930 for its aesthetic of a secular temple and its 65-meter belfry which, according to Mayor Lazare Goujon, was to give an “impression of solidity and grandeur but without unnecessary pomp”. With an Italian, even Mussolinian tendency, the town hall impresses with the size of the entrances and central halls.

Palace of Labor
It was by designing the Palais du Travail that the architect Morice Leroux proved himself, before being elected for the Skyscraper project. It is also the first element built in the major project to create a new district on the initiative of Mayor Lazare Goujon.

National Popular Theater (NPT)
The Théâtre de la Cité, inaugurated in 1934, alternates for decades music hall performances, concerts, operetta and theater. Entrusted to Roger Planchon in 1957, it took on the status of Popular National Theater in 1972, when Jean Vilar left the Palais de Chaillot. It thus becomes a symbol of decentralization.

The swimming pool of the NPT (1933)
Under the Palais du Travail, dug in the basements, is… a swimming pool. Opened in 1933, in full vogue for swimming, it will then be called the winter swimming pool.

Lazare Goujon square (1934)
First named Place du Nouvel Hôtel de Ville then Place Albert Thomas, it is only since 1966 that Place Lazare Goujon bears the name of the former mayor of Villeurbanne. Central square, located between the Town Hall and the TNP, it will find a second life in 2007 after the construction of an underground car park.

The House of Book, Image and Sound (1988)
Inaugurated by the President of the Republic François Mitterrand on October 15, 1988, the MLIS is one of the most prestigious buildings of the period of construction that were the 1990s. Privileged place for cultural exchanges associating around the book and the writes the techniques of image and sound, the MLIS hosts the Youth Book Festival every year.

Raphaël-de-Barros room (1957 – 251-253 cours Emile-Zola)
The former Maison des Sports, built in the years 1955-1957, was the scene of Asvel’s exploits for nearly forty years. Nine times champion of France during the mandate of its president Raphaël de Barros, from 1963 to 1988, Asvel continues to leave its mark on history but in a place better suited to the club’s ambitions, Astroballe.

In 1995, the Astroballe hosted its first Asvel match. 5,600 seats, 9,000 m2, the project to build a multi-sports hall on the edge of the ring road was ambitious. Aesthetic, functional and scalable, the large white building hosts all ASVEL matches and major sporting events in other disciplines.

Sainte-Athanase Church (350 cours Emile-Zola)
It is the oldest monument in Villeurbanne. The oldest elements date from the 13th century. The small Saint-Athanase church was for a long time the only church in Villeurbanne and the oldest property in the city. Since 1969, she has been assigned to the Ukrainian Catholic cult of the Greco-Byzantine rite.

The Church of the Holy Family (1937 – 9 rue Longchamp)
Theater of the great Saint-Roch festivals, dear to the hearts of Italians, this art-deco style church was very important to their community, especially between the wars. Since 1996, it has been the site of a sacred art biennial.

Cusset hydroelectric plant (1899 – 82 rue Pierrefitte)
Installed on the Jonage Canal, dug between 1892 and 1899, the hydroelectric plant had its heyday at the end of the 19th century when its production was sufficient to supply the town of Villeurbanne with electricity. On January 15, 2002, Electricité de France obtained the renewal of the operating concession for a period of forty years.

Worker’s gardens
In the 1930s, allotment gardens left the Gratte-ciel district for Saint-Jean, on the edge of Vaulx-en-Velin. True place of life, where we grow our vegetables, flowers and fruits with love, these allotment gardens are also a meeting place, where everyone knows and helps each other.

The garden for the little ones (1929 – 17 avenue Marc Sangnier)
This square was inaugurated in 1929 by Mayor Lazare Goujon, in the presence of Pauline Lafont. This generous benefactress donated the land to the city to make a public garden reserved for children under 6 years old and adults who accompany them.

The garden of a thousand colors (1999 – rue Pierre Baratin)
This garden, inaugurated in 1999, was chosen by the Cusset-Bonnevay district council as a symbol of the restitution of the center of life of the old hamlet of Cusset. The thousand colors refer to the first inhabitants, the Celts, the Allobroges, the Romans, the Burgundians and to those who came to settle more recently: Italians, Spaniards, North Africans.

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The old cemetery (1863 – 1 rue du Cimetière)
The military necropolis of La Doua, which can be seen from the ring road, contains 6,346 graves of French, Belgian, English, Russian or Polish soldiers “who died for France”. The thousands of white crosses lined up, the stelae in the Jewish and Muslim squares bear the first names, names and ages of young men who died in combat, buried in this necropolis between 1953 and 1986.

The necropolis of La Doua (National Cemetery of La Doua – Croix Luizet)
The military necropolis of La Doua, which can be seen from the ring road, contains 6,346 graves of French, Belgian, English, Russian or Polish soldiers “who died for France”. The thousands of white crosses lined up, the stelae in the Jewish and Muslim squares bear the first names, names and ages of young men who died in combat, buried in this necropolis between 1953 and 1986.

The Lycée Frédéric Faÿs (46 rue Frédéric-Faÿs – 1907)
Before becoming an educational establishment, the hospital-hospice of Villeurbanne will suffer the vagaries of successive wars and fulfill in turn the functions of a hospice for old people, a military hospital and even a German barracks for German firefighters. It was not until 1947 that the buildings will welcome their first schoolchildren, thanks to the former Communist mayor Camille Joly, also a teacher.

Studio 24 (24 rue Emile-Decorps)
Huge rectangle of five floors, red, blue, green – the colors of the video test pattern – on the street, black on the main facade, studio 24 is an extremely rare achievement in France. It has a dual vocation: hosting theatrical performances, with a capacity of 500 seats, and film shoots. A great diversity of uses which makes it an important economic asset for the region.

Le Zola cinema (117 cours Emile-Zola)
Last survivor of the twenty or so cinemas that existed in Villeurbanne during the interwar period, the former La Family cinema opened in the early 1920s. Bought by the city in 1980, it is managed by the association Pour le Cinema, which also organizes several festivals, meetings and thematic weeks every year.

East station (1881)
Inaugurated in 1881, the eastern line played an important role during the war for the supply of the maquis and the transport of resistance fighters and refugees. It is also from the station that the rounded-ups of March 1, 1943 were taken to a terrible fate. In 1946, the station resumed service with the height of the freight service before traffic fell gradually until 1980. It was reborn from its ashes in 2006 with the entry into service of the Léa and Leslys tram lines, currently T3 and T4.

The Berty-Albrecht House
Built in the 1930s, this beautiful bourgeois house housed during the war the office of the assistant inspector responsible for listing female unemployment, Berty Albrecht. It is here that this great figure of the resistance worked for almost two years for the Combat network. Currently, the house houses some 70 associations of all types and offers them meeting rooms.

The Hôtel des Postes (Place Grandclément – 1904)
Who remembers that the current post in Place Grandclément was for a long time the town hall of Villeurbanne? After the building was inaugurated in 1904, municipal services stayed there for 30 years before moving to the town hall in the heart of the new Gratte-Ciel district.

Le Rize, Memory & Society Center
Opened in February 2008, the Rize is a cultural and research facility. It offers all audiences key reading to better understand the city of today and imagine that of tomorrow. It brings together a 2,600 m² media library, municipal archives and cultural and educational spaces.

Institute of Contemporary Art (IAC)
Opened in 1982, the New Museum, today the Institute of Contemporary Art, is one of the very first French contemporary art centers. The building that houses it is a former school, the school of the city, one of the first of the Jules Ferry type, built in the 1890s. In twenty years, more than fifty exhibitions have been produced, some artists described as historical.

The Septen building (1984 – 12-14 avenue Dutriévoz)
The architects Claude Parent and René Gimbert and Jacques Vergély signed an original architecture, based on the principles of transparency and communication. With its large glass roof, its polished granite facade, and the lush vegetation that stands in the middle of the interior courtyard, the Septem building (France’s thermal and nuclear power studies and projects department) still has its effect.

In 1924, the new mayor, Lazare Goujon, a socialist doctor with hygienic ideas, intends to create a new town center, transferring the one that existed then to the current town center. The project provides for the construction of the town hall, a work palace, a theater and rental buildings offering all modern comforts.

During 3/4 of the 20th Century, an establishment located on Villeurbanne, boulevard Stalingrad, on the edge of the Parc de la Tète d’Or in Lyon, housed the “Largest Music Hall in Europe”, the Winter Palace created by the Lamour family, which produced, at the same time as the Salle de la Bourse du Travail in Lyon, the most beautiful variety shows, song, and Jazz in the Lyon region. From Charles Trenet to Jacques Brel, via Duke Ellington or Ray Charles, the most famous of the record and radio artists will perform there, often in preview of the Olympia in Paris.

At the end of the 1980s, a media library, called Maison du livre, de l’image et du son, or Médiathèque François Mitterrand, was built according to plans by Swiss artist Mario Botta.

The Rize, cultural and research facility, opened its doors on February 16, 2008 at 23-25 rue Valentin-Haüy (Grandclément district). A place for debates, meetings and exchanges, it brings together over 2,660 m 2 the municipal archives, a media library and spaces for cultural and educational activities. The Rize offers all audiences key reading to better understand the city of today and imagine that of tomorrow.

Villeurbanne is home to the Institut d’art contemporain de Villeurbanne, which is the regional contemporary art fund (FRAC) of the Rhône-Alpes region.

Since 2002, Villeurbanne has had a Metropolitan Center for Urban Arts: Les Ateliers Frappaz. This structure co-organizes with the cultural services of Villeurbanne the festival Les Invites de Villeurbanne which attracts an average of 80,000 spectators in mid-June.

Monumental work on a skyscraper by artist Guillaume Bottazzi.

The Jean-Pierre-Lachaize ecumenical cultural center (CCO Villeurbanne) is a cultural center created in 1963 in Villeurbanne, near the university complex of INSA and the Doua. The CCO is a support structure for the promoters of collective projects, associations and artists. The structure also carries cultural action and social innovation projects such as the development of the capacity to act and the protection of cultural rights.

Religious buildings
Due to the destruction of the Château de la Ferrandière and the recent development of the town, the oldest monument in Villeurbanne is the Saint-Athanase church.

Church of the Nativity
The Church of the Nativity was built in 1835 on Place Grandclément.

Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
The Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was consecrated in 1842 near the old Château de la Ferrandière.

Church of the Holy Family
The Church of the Holy Family is a French Catholic religious building, located in Villeurbanne in the metropolis of Lyon.

Church of Saint-Julien de Cusset / Saint-Athanase
Originally, simple chapel built perhaps around 800, by the sailors of the Rhône which a navigable arm going at the foot of this hill, this former parish church of the 16th century was long known under the name of Saint- Julien de Cusset. They wrote notebooks of grievances there and held the first municipal assemblies. Now called St. Athanasius Church, it is used by the Uniates (Ukrainian Catholics of the Byzantine rite). It houses a religious heritage (virgin in gilded wood) and Ukrainian (iconostasis, icons, etc.).

Immaculate Conception Institution
The Immaculate Conception institution was created in 1846 by the congregation of the Sisters of Providence of Corenc and according to the plans of Mother Sainte-Céleste, hosting in 1854 a Catholic boarding school for young girls until 1905, date of the law of separation of the Churches and the State where the institution will become secular. Following an agreement with the State between 1959 and 1962, the institution became Catholic again. The “Immac” is today a school complex made up of a primary school, a middle school and a high school.

Cultural heritage

Villa Lafont
The Lafont villa was built in reinforced concrete in 1930 by the engineer Léon Lelièvre for the Lafont family, industrialists from Villeurbanne. Some parts of the villa have been registered as historical monuments since April 29, 1991.

Monumental complex built on the initiative of the mayor Lazare Goujon. 1927–1931 Cité des Gratte-ciel (apartment buildings), Town Hall and Palais du Travail (1928–1930) now housing the National People’s Theater.

National Necropolis Doua
National necropolis of the Doua is a military cemetery, located in Villeurbanne, France. The cemetery brings together the graves of soldiers or resistance fighters, French or from Allied troops of the First World War or the Second World War, all dead for France. During the Second World War, the place, then former training ground of the French army was used for theNazi occupant of regular place of resistance shootings; in particular, resistance prisoners in Montluc.

Festivities and events

March: Reflections of the Iberian and Latin American Cinema, at the Zola, 1930s art and architectural essay cinema
March: the strides of Villeurbanne, pedestrian race
March: The Karnaval Humanitaire, solidarity festival on the DOUA campus.
April: Children’s Book Festival
April: Le Reperkusound, electronic music festival.
May: the good plants of Villeurbanne, days of discovery of the local environment
May: The 24 hours of INSA Lyon, weekend of various festivities throughout the Doua campus
Mid-June: Les Invites de Villeurbanne, street theater festival
Mid-November: Villeurbanne Short Film Festival
October: Un Doua de Jazz Festival

Tags: France