L’Avenir Social Orphanage of Orgemont
21st of January, 2012
This exploration took place in the children’s home “L’Avenir Social” located in the Orgemont burgh, part of the Cerny municipality in the region of Essone, near to Paris.
This expedition was the most eerie I experienced for the weight of the place’s history as well as the events that occured could be felt very quickly. The wandering of around ten hours within the various buildings and areas was tinged with a sad and heavy atmosphere.
The children’s home of “L’Avenir Social” is not just a mere abandoned place. It is also the story of a destroyed utopia and (re)-sacrified children.
The history of this place begins in the 18th century with the construction of a castle in the Orgemont burgh, which will be passed from owner to owner. It will fall into the hands of the Protestant church in the 1960s which will turn it into a theological center. At that time, the center consisted of what is called the “Castle of Orgemont”, a large but more modest house just beside it, and outbuildings: a chapel, a small building overlooking the street, a small greenhouse. And, of course, the gigantic park.
In 1906, in Courrières (Pas-de-Calais, northern France), a firedamp killed more than a thousand miners, including 200 children, and left many more orphans. This disaster will have major social consequences and will lead to some advances in labour law. It will also inspire Madeleine Vernet, educator and anarchic activist, revolted by the exploitation of children, to create “L’Avenir Social”, a refuge for orphans located in Neuilly-Plaisance (Paris region). The idea of this refuge is to help children grow up in a positive and educative environment rather than seeing them disappear under the weight of work in the mines.
Until its demise, “L’Avenir Social” will undergo three periods.
The association will grow regularly and therefore had to move several times. This development will require more and more funding, leading to the participation of associations and unions, including the CGTU (Confédération Générale du Travail Unitaire – General Confederation of Unitary Labour, future CGT – Confédération Générale du Travail – General Confederation of Unitary Labour). Mechanically, these associations will gradually take control, ousting Madeleine Vernet.
The orphanage, a tumbledown house in Villette-aux-Aulnes, now too small and decrepit, needs a new domain for its home. The CGT, which fully controls the association “L’Avenir Social”, publishes leaflets and sets up models to convince its activists to make donations for their cause. It was in 1969 that the CGT bought the Orgemont estate.
After a harvest of donations exceeding expectations, the emblematic and brutalist concrete buildings were created, to the east of the site, as well as various developments: parking, administrative prefabs, tennis courts to the west and in the park, enclosure and an animal park welcoming ponies and deer.
The center will officially open in June 1976.
The famous concrete buildings are not just simple blocks placed there at random. The notion of independence is well thought out. On site, a kitchen allowed you to heat your dish, or prepare it yourself. You could then eat in a large refectory or reach your room by taking your food on a cart through a covered alley. The rooms, individual, had WC and shower, which at the time was a luxury for the children living there.
It was in 1987 that things began to escalate, when the CGT (which owned the place) came into conflict with the working staff (mostly CFDT – Confédération Française Démocratique du Travail – French Democratic Confederation of Labour). The educators accused the CGT of proselytizing, while the latter blamed them for having moved away from the original concept of the shelter for indeed it welcomed children of the DDASS (Direction Départementale des Affaires Sanitaires et Sociales – Departmental Directorate of Health and Social Affairs), and no longer only children of workers. This also gave a certain financial independence vis-à-vis the union, which was frowned upon.
A strike broke out on January 5. The CGT then used methods of intimidation to break the movement. Cut off from the world, the thirty or so people had to take refuge in the staff quarters, whose spiral metal staircase can still be seen today.
On January 13, 1988, at four o’clock in the morning, the CGT security service attacked the site and kicked everyone out, including the children. Trash bags were thrown at them asking them to take their things and leave the premises. The separation was brutal. Some children went to the police in tears, others were placed in the DDASS and some ran away on motorcycles…
In one night, the work of many years was broken. On the same day, alerted by various authorities, the prefecture of Essonne took immediate precautionary measures:
“The closure of the “Maison des Enfants de Travailleurs” located at the Castle of Orgemont in Cerny, managed by “L’Avenir Social”, is pronounced on a provisional basis.”
The home transferred to Orgemont twelve years ago will never reopen…
For twenty years, the site, abandoned, deteriorates. In 2007, a rehabilitation project saw the light of day to transform it into a very high-end closed residence.
How ironic… The social utopia, sacrificed, is in the process of becoming an utopia for the rich… A period of cleaning sees the disappearance of most of the traces of life still there, but the project does not go further.
The site then returns to its barely disturbed torpor, while the children’s laughter has been replaced by the icy wind…
I like to attempt to tell a story with my Urbx photography set and to orient the view into a journey within the decayed places that I visit. I hope that you will enjoy the experience and get the feel of the adventure related by my photographs.
NB: All the photographs are available for print purchases. If you are interested, you can contact me directly.
Path of the Forgotten
Little House in Misery
Little House in Misery Entrance
Little House in Misery Bathroom
Little House in Misery Bathroom One More Step
Little House in Misery What’s that Noise?
Little House in Misery Chamber
Little House in Misery Chamber Detail
A Warm Morning in the Ruins
House of the Rising Sun
Can you Hear?
Trapped in Depth
Trapped in Depth ViewPoint
Glance of a Creature
Nest of a Creature
Nest of a Creature Alternate
Egg of a Creature
A Cosy Shelter LeftView Diptych
A Cosy Shelter RightView Diptych
Naked Engine Detail
Super 11SL LargeView
Super 11SL CloseUp
Super 11SL Detail
Something’s Wrong Here
Stuck in Pain
The 39 Steps
Dial M For Murder
Come On in my Kitchen
Come On in my Kitchen Cooking Plates
Come On in my Kitchen Gas Storage
Come On in my Kitchen Thermostat
Dinner is Served
Dinner is Served OppositeView
Woman in the Wall
Hope on Many Levels
Hope on Many Levels Alternate
A Few Steps to Heaven
A Few Steps to Heaven LargeView
Rooftop Hiding Pipeline
Rooftop Hiding Saw
Rooftop Hiding Window
Rooftop Hiding Entrance
Only Two Choices
Where is Timmy?
Escape Staircase Above
Escape Staircase Above Detail
Thin Blue Line
In the Open
Ritual Place CloseUp
Ritual Place Entrance
Devil’s Lair Inside
No One Can Imagine What’s There
There are Flowers in Urbx
There are Flowers in Urbx OppositeView
What’s on the News?
Roller Coaster Descent
House of the Breach
House of the Breach Corridor
House of the Breach Detail
House of the Breach Talisman
House of the Breach Leak
House of the Breach Living Room
House of the Breach Hungry Wall
House of the Breach Hidden Corner
House of the Breach Escape
Lost in Peace
Lost in Peace Inside
Lost in Peace Spirit
Last Room Alternate
Follow the Light
Cold and Warmth
Lost Highway Quadriptych
An Teal the End
View of the Forgotten
NB: All the photographs are available for print purchases.
If you are interested, you can contact me directly.