Phalanstère

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Perspective view of the urban area of Fourier's Phalanstère. Rural area is not shown in the drawing.

A phalanstère (or Phalanstery) was a type of building designed for a utopian community and developed in the early 19th century by Charles Fourier. Fourier named these self-contained communities, ideally consisting of 500-2000 people working together for mutual benefit, after the phalanx, the basic military unit in Ancient Greece. Though Fourier published 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.

Fourier believed that the traditional house was a place of exile and oppression of women. He believed gender roles could progress by shaping them within community, more than by pursuits of sexual freedom or other Simonian concepts.[1]

The phalanstère structure[edit]

North American Phalanx building in Monmouth County, New Jersey, inspired by Fourier's concept

Charles Fourier conceived the phalanstère as an organized building designed to integrate 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 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 autonomous economy of the phalanstère. The phalanstère also included private apartments and many social halls. A social hall was defined by Fourier as a seristère.

Fourier's successor Victor Considerant 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 leagues 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?"

The Unité d'Habitation in Marseilles, France, designed by French architect Le Corbusier.

In the 20th century, the architect Le Corbusier adapted the concept of the phalanstère when he designed the Unité d'Habitation, a self-contained commune, at Marseilles.

See also[edit]

References[edit]