THE GRANDS ENSEMBLES

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Because land in the centre of the city is expensive, the government and private companies decided to build housing developments on the outskirts of cities. These developments are called grands ensembles, which means "big togethers" or "big housing developments." Unlike other suburbs, these developments have many more apartment buildings than single-family houses. Each grand ensemble consists of several high-rise apartment buildings, some low-rise apartments and some single-family houses. It also includes schools and shopping areas. Since the late 1950s, grands ensembles have been built on the outskirts of most of the big cities in France.

Some people like grands ensembles, and some dislike them. The people who like them say they provide much better housing than was available before. The grands ensembles give people more living space and allow them to breathe less polluted air than in the city centre. They create neighbourhoods where people can make new friends.

Those who dislike the grands ensembles say they are impersonal. They say that all the apartments are alike. Many people live crowded together, and the theatres, restaurants and parks of the city are far away. Because there are no local cafes where people can sit and chat, some people in high-rises do not find it easy to make friends.

Grands ensembles have friends and enemies in France. Do you think you would like to live in one of the developments shown here? Why or why not?