Charles Fourier (1772-1837)

“An Architectural Innovation: The Street-Gallery”

Source: The Utopian Vision of Charles Fourier. Selected Texts on Work, Love, and Passionate Attraction. Translated, Edited and with an Introduction by Jonathan Beecher and Richard Bienvenu. Published by Jonathan Cape, 1972;
First Published: in 1822, Théorie de l'unité universelle.
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden.

The street-galleries are a mode of internal communication which would alone be sufficient to inspire disdain for the palaces and great cities of civilisation. Once a man has seen the street-galleries of a Phalanx, he will look upon the most elegant civilised palace as a place of exile, a residence worthy of fools who, after three thousand years of architectural studies, have not yet learned how to build themselves healthy and comfortable lodgings. In civilisation we can only conceive of luxury in the simple mode; we have no conception of the compound or collective forms of luxury... .

The poorest wretch in Harmony, a man who doesn’t have a penny to his name, has a well-heated and enclosed portico at his disposal when he gets into a carriage; he goes from the Palace to the stables by means of paved and gravelled underground passage-ways; he gets from his lodgings to the public halls and workshops by means of street-galleries which are heated in winter and ventilated in summer. In Harmony one can pass through the workshops, stables, shops, ball-rooms, banquet and assembly halls, etc., in January without knowing whether it is rainy or windy, hot or cold. The detailed treatment which I shall give to this subject entitles me to say that if, after three thousand years of study, the civilised have not vet learned how to house themselves, it is no wonder that they have not yet learned how to direct and harmonise their passions. When one fails in the most minute material calculations, one is likely to fail in the great calculations concerning the passions.

Let us describe the street-galleries which are one of the most charming and precious features of a Palace of Harmony. A Phalanx which may consist of up to 1600 or 1800 people, is actually a small town in itself; the more so in that it has a large number of adjacent rural buildings of the sort that our proprietors and city-dwellers relegate to their country residences.

The Phalanx has no outside streets or open road-ways exposed to the elements. All the portions of the central edifice can be traversed by means of a wide gallery which runs along the second floor of the whole building. At each extremity of this spacious corridor there are elevated passages, supported by columns, and also attractive underground passages which connect all the parts of the Phalanx and the adjoining buildings. Thus everything is linked by a series of passage-ways which are sheltered, elegant, and comfortable in winter thanks to the help of heaters and ventilators.

These sheltered passage-ways are particularly necessary in view of the fact that there is a great deal of movement in Harmony. In conformity with the laws of the eleventh and twelfth passions (the Butterfly and the Composite), the sessions of the various work and recreation groups never last more than one or two hours. If the Harmonians were obliged to go out of doors in moving from one hall to another, from a stable to a workshop, it would take just one week of wintry, damp weather to leave even the most robust of them beset by colds, inflammations and pleurisy. A state of things which requires so much moving about makes sheltered means of communication an absolute necessity.

The street-gallery or continuous peristyle extends along the second story. It could not be placed on the ground floor since the lower part of the building will be traversed by carriage entrances. Those who have seen the gallery of the Louvre may take it as a model for the street-gallery in Harmony. It will be taller than the Louvre, however, and the windows will be differently placed.

The street-galleries of a Phalanx wind along just one side of the central edifice and stretch to the end of each of its wings. All of these wings contain a double row of rooms. Thus one row of rooms looks out upon the fields and gardens and the other looks out upon the street-gallery. The street-gallery, then, will be three stories high with windows on one side. The entrance to all the apartments of the second, third and fourth stories is located in the street-gallery. Flights of stairs are placed at intervals to ascend to the upper stories... .

After thirty years, when permanent buildings are constructed, the street-gallery will have a width of six toises in the central portion of the Palace and four toises in the wings. But at the outset, since the present poverty of the globe requires modest structures ... the street-gallery will be only four toises wide in the center and three in the wings... .

The main body of the building will have a width of about eight toises, not including the street-gallery. This will allow room to put alcoves and toilets in all of the apartments... . The minimum lodging for a member of the poorest class will thus include a room, an alcove and a private toilet... .

The kitchens and some of the public halls will be located on the ground floor. There will also be trap-doors in the floors of the dining rooms on the second story. Thus the tables may be set in the kitchens below and simply raised through the trapdoors when it is time to eat. These trap-doors will be particularly useful during festivities, such as the visits of travelling caravans and legions, when there will be too many people to eat in the ordinary dining rooms. Then double rows of tables will be set in the street-galleries, and the food will be passed up from the kitchen.

The principal public halls should not be situated on the ground floor. There are two reasons for this. The first is that the patriarchs and children, who have difficulty climbing stairs, should be lodged in the lower parts of the building. The second is that the children should be kept in isolation from the non-industrial activities of the adults... .

To spend a winter’s day in a Phalanstery, to visit all parts of it without exposure to the elements, to go to the theatre and the opera in light clothes and coloured shoes without worrying about the mud and the cold, would be a charm so novel that it alone would suffice to make our cities and castles seem detestable. If the Phalanstery were put to civilised uses, the mere convenience of its sheltered, heated and ventilated passage-ways would make it enormously valuable.