Robert Auzelle had an understanding of architecture the validity of which is still relevant today : for him, architecture was the point and instrument of communication. These were the convictions which inspired his ouvre as an urbanist. He dedicated a significant part of his life to the rehabilitation of funerary architecture, as a humanist he was convinced that a civilisation's worth can only be measured by the respect with which it honours its dead. A studious man, his mantra was "Learn all the time". Because he was essentially a pedagogue, all his assignments were conceived with an underlying educational value and they could be used as examples.. It is also by his teaching, public interventions and publications that he was highly influential in France and to a large extent abroad. More than two hundred articles and conferences are listed under his name, as well as nine projects.

Robert Auzelle was born in Coulommiers on the 8th June , 1913. In June 1931, he was admitted to the Ècole Nationale SupÈrieure des Beaux-Arts and was enrolled in the Bigot atelier.

His educational achievements were brilliant: in 1934 he received the MÝller-SoehnÈe prize awarded to the second year pupil who took the highest merit in the year; on the 17th June 1936, he received a high mention for his architectural diploma; at the Salon des Artistes français in 1938, he exhibited one of his school projects (1); and in 1939, he received the Chenavard prize for "A cemetery in the Rezt desert. "

In 1936, Robert Auzelle enrolled in the lnstitut d'Urbanisme de l'Université de Paris (The Paris Institute of Urbanism) graduating in 1942.

However, the preparations for the international exhibition of 1937, offered important opportunities for public competitions for architecture and urbanism. These preparations offered a new focus of interest for the young generation of architects to which Auzelle belonged who felt that the Institute did not give them the necessary training to tackle the questions of urbanism which they judged to be fundamental.

He chose to enter the Public Office during the campaign of reconstruction of the country which followed the liberation of France.

This decision was dictated by a missionary vision which sought to re-establish the role of architects in France after the war. In the last thirty years in France, construction had been almost paralysed, therefore there was a need to promote an effective renaissance of architecture linked to an urbanism geared to modern times.

During 1945, at 32 years of age , Robert Auzelle was named professor at l'Institut d'Urbanisme de Paris. From 1961, André Gutton called on him to participate in urbanist education at l'Ecole des Beaux-arts. The founding members of the 1961 Seminar, Tony Garnier, André Gutton and Robert Auzelle, were convinced of the necessity of an education focussed on practicability. This prompted them to devise syllabuses anchored on realities, the aim was to simulate the conditions the future urbanists would encounter in their working lives. Auzelle used this seminar to familiarise students to methods that he himself had applied in his career.

From 1947 Robert Auzelle embarked on the publication of the "Encyclopaedia of the urbanism" (2) with Ivan Jankovic. He ensured the diffusion of urban planning models, and endeavoured to promote a method of work established on a precise documentary base. He encouraged students to create albums of comparative drawings based on urban elements gleaned from various epochs but represented on the same scale; this made the students aware of the necessity to appreciate the variety of forms and inventions and to keep this diversity in mind when elaborating and developing their own studies..

Sent on an assignment in Brittany in 1945, he encouraged and advised architects and elected local representatives to establish plans of reconstruction and planning for cities ravaged by war. It is, at that time, that he defined the notion of 'deficient habitat'. He put in place a method of evaluating the degree of building degradation, to better comprehend the style and standard of living of inhabitants in general, and to evaluate preliminary information so that decisions may be taken whether to conserve, improve or demolish the existing habitat.

Henceforth, an essential part of his research activities, the diffusion of principles and methods was involved to serve an urbanism which was defined as "an organisation conscious of the space".

"Auzelle tried to give some serious methodological rules in the survey of urbanism plans and not of simple administrative rules."
Robert JOLY

In his capacity as urbanist and architect his plan for Neufchâtel-in-Bray (3) offers a plan style of construction : public buildings were regrouped around a planted, landscaped place.

The realisation of the Plain to Clamart district (1947-1953)(4) is the most eloquent counterproposal to the 'grand ensemble' politics. What is interesting in this achievement is that it illustrates the theories devised at the time by Robert Auzelle from the research derived from the 'Centre d'etudes' , concerning implantation of buildings for the use of habitation:

Disassociation of structure and framework, thus relinquishing a logic of implantation of buildings according to the alignment of the streets; complete range of dwellings.

As Vice-President of the 'Centre d'études' (study centre) under the General Direction of Urbanism, his objective was to devise a method and a set of regulations of intervention in the field of urbanism, thus providing a more homogeneous integration of officers within the different departments, and even ensuring their formation.

"The fundamental principle of his method consistently argued that the architect-urbanist was not a 'deus ex machina', that he was not omniscient. It was imperative that he should use the skills of disciplines other than those strictly architectural." Charles DELFANTE, Urbanist, (formed by Robert Auzelle in the setting of the study centre under the Direction General of the Urbanism)

When the project of La Defense planning took a decisive shape in 1958, with the creation of the EPAD, Mr André Prothin, the then director, noting the anachronism of the mass-plan initially drawn up in 1956, asked Robert Auzelle for a new study which was achieved in collaboration with Ivan Jankovic. In presenting the project of La Defense, Auzelle undertook to establish the principle of differentiation between the automobile traffic and the pedestrian precinct. Auzelle, convinced of the necessity to install in La Defense a prestigious cultural centre, conceived with Hector Patriotis, between 1969 and 1972, a scheme for the head of La Defense (5), which would unblock entirely the view over the capital.
The role of which Robert Auzelle had upon La Defense project appears considerable when one understands the influence he had on the political representatives responsible for the project.
He worked on many plans of urbanism notably those of Papeete (Oceania) and of Porto (Portugal, 1951-1956).
One could wonder why an urbanist should be concerned about cemetery planning. But during his whole life, Robert Auzelle focussed his thoughts on the resting place of the dead. He contributed greatly in introducing in France the notion and the practice of landscaping cemeteries. We are indebted to him for the three large inter-communal cemeteries of Clamart (1951), of Valenton (1971-1973) and Villetanneuse (1972-1976), in the Paris region.
Robert Auzelle was president of l'Académie d'Architecture between 1976 to 1979. Re-elected for a second term, he died while still holding this office on the 22nd December, 1983.
This architect and urbanist not only opened the way to many areas of research and study, but he also gave us an example of how the exacting demands of quality required considerable personal investment.

1. A radio beacon for the ocean gate. School project of Robert Auzelle exhibited at the French Artists in 1938.

2. Board extracted from the encyclopedia devoted to planning the city of Letchworth in Britain. A systematic presentation with an outline and detailed plans, and an aerial photographic surveys of the various district.

3. The administrative center of Neufchatel-en-Bray: the courthouse, its fast skylights in the roof projection.

4. The city of La Plaine in Clamart. The model of garden cities, but sifted through the critical rule rationally circulations, settlements of buildings and open spaces and collectives.

5. The head of the Defense. Project Hector Patriotis and Robert Auzelle .In background, a theater in Paris, for Europe. On a hill stands, we would have seen Paris at a glance.

6. The cemetery of Clamart in edge of the woods.

7. The interior of Fontaine-Saint-Martin cemetery room.