Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
L'Architecture lettriste collection
View entire collection guide What's This?
PDF (108.13 Kb) HTML
Search this collection
Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Biographical / Historical
  • Administrative Information
  • Related Archival Materials
  • Separated Materials
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: L'Architecture lettriste collection
    Date (inclusive): 1968-1988
    Number: 880210
    Creator/Collector: Didier Lecointre et Denis Ozanne (Firm)
    Physical Description: 58.17 Linear Feet (28 boxes and 4 flatfile folders)
    The Getty Research Institute
    Special Collections
    1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
    Los Angeles 90049-1688
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10020/askref
    (310) 440-7390
    Abstract: A collection assembled for an exhibition in 1988 at Lecointre-Ozanne in Paris featuring maquettes, projects, plans and writings of Isidore Isou, Roland Sabatier, Alain Satié, François Poyet, Gérard-Philippe Broutin, Albert DuPont, and Micheline Hachette. Included are manifestos and bulletins; proposals for playgrounds and housing; designs for towns of the future; and decorative designs.
    Request Materials: Request access to the physical materials described in this inventory through the catalog record   for this collection. Click here for the access policy  .
    Language: Collection material is in French.

    Biographical / Historical

    Didier Lecointre et Denis Ozanne, also known as Librairie Lecointre-Ozanne, was a gallery and rare books dealer in Paris run by Didier Lecointre and Denis Ozanne. Lecointre and Ozanne opened a location in Odéon on the rue de Tournon in the early 1980s, specializing in twentieth-century avant-garde art movements, photography, and artists' books. They continuously published catalogues of their holdings and exhibitions, including Vingt ans d'architecture lettriste in 1988, Reliures lettristes in 1991, and several catalogues related to the 1991 Biennale du livre d'artiste in Uzerche. In 1987, Lecointre-Ozanne opened a location in Drouot on the rue de Provence. This location would later operate as Chloé & Denis Ozanne Rare Books, while the original Odéon location became Didier Lecointre et Dominique Drouet booksellers. Both businesses continued to collect and sell artists' books and other works by avant-garde groups like the Lettrists and Situationists.

    Administrative Information

    Conditions Governing Access

    Open for use by qualified researchers. Contact the repository for information regarding access to the maquettes.

    Publication Rights

    Preferred Citation

    L'Architecture lettriste collection, 1968-1988, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 880210.

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    Acquired in 1988.

    Processing History

    The collection was rehoused upon receipt. Sara McGillivray wrote the finding aid in 2017.

    Related Archival Materials

    For Lettrist writings see the Lettrism papers , the Lettrist movement papers , and the Jean Brown Collection  .

    Separated Materials

    Published material from the sale exhibition was separated from this collection and catalogued by the library. These materials consisted of sale exhibition catalogue number 13, "Manifeste pour le bouleversement de l'architecture,"  numbers 14 and 15, "Le Bouleversement de l'architecture,"   and number 49, "Particuliers, promoteurs ne confiez plus vos constructions aux escrocs […]" 

    Scope and Content of Collection

    This collection consists of materials assembled for an exhibition, Vingt ans d'architecture lettriste , held at Librairie Lecointre-Ozanne in Paris in March 1988. The works include maquettes, projects, plans and writings which date from 1968 to 1988, and were created by seven members of the Lettrist movement: Gérard-Philippe Broutin, Albert DuPont, Micheline Hachette, Isidore Isou, François Poyet, Roland Sabatier, and Alain Satié. Included are manifestos and bulletins; proposals for playgrounds and housing; designs for towns of the future; and decorative designs.
    The avant-garde movement, Lettrism, was formed in 1945 by Isidore Isou and Gabriel Pomerand. The Romanian-born Isou came to Paris after World War II, and upon forming the group began issuing leaflets, manuscripts, and manifestos. The group alleged that arts have life cycles, defining two distinct periods before an art's "death," the amplique and the ciselante. The amplique is a period in which an artistic discipline grows and expands (amplifies) through the use of techniques drawn from other disciplines out of utility, rather than from pre-existing aesthetic techniques. The ciselante follows the amplique as a period in which the art looks inward and is deepened (chiseled in) through self-reflection, but becomes inaccessible to the amateur. It then dies due to a lack of possibility for original creation, and all subsequent efforts are known as "neo"-arts. Lettrists sought out originality in their work, and often denounced revivalist artistic movements as imitative. Early Lettrists named poetry and music as dead arts and cast Lettrism as a new art. The group drew from poetry and music for their lettries, compositions of letters assembled for the aesthetic purpose of pleasing the eye or ear. While formatted and often performed like poetry, unlike the poem, these works emphasize the forms and sounds of letters over words, and as such, have no translatable meaning; the letter becomes a visual object symbolic only as a phoneme.
    The Lettrists' experimentation with notation systems continued into more visual works and expanded into other fields of art, asserting that, like music and poetry, literature and painting had reached their respective ends and there was no room left in either field for original creation. Lettrism sought to reinvent dead fields by injecting them with experimental techniques revolving around the letter, such as uniting pattern and typography, and utilizing pictographs and varied ink colors to arrive at works that were neither figurative nor abstract. This fusion between art and writing was first termed metagraphics, and grew into hypergraphics in the 1950s. While lettries stripped meaning from notational symbols to create purely aesthetic works, hypergraphy introduced diverse notational symbols into works to add layers of meaning. This allowed Lettrist paintings to be "read," while Lettrist novels wove together narratives using all manner of symbols. Inserting images into a novel was termed plasticizing, and Isou's first hypergraphic novel, Les Journaux des dieux , was published in 1950.
    The Lettrists' work regarding architecture can be traced back to Isou's 1968 "Manifeste pour le bouleversement de l'architecture,"  (#13 in the Lecointre-Ozanne sale catalogue), but would be more fully fleshed out with Roland Sabatier and Alain Satié's publication of "Le Bouleversement de l'architecture,"   in 1979 (#14 in the sale catalogue). Sabatier joined the Lettrists in 1963, Satié and Hachette in 1964, Poyet in 1966, Broutin in 1968, and DuPont in 1973. These artists would explore the relationship between Lettrist ideas and architecture in the works within this collection, both individually and collaboratively, as in the proposal for a façade in Fécamp and the exterior of the Mid Mad Mod store in Paris.
    The Lettrists defined architecture up to the Modernists as the discipline's amplique period, and sought to usher the discipline through its ciselante period and into the hypergraphic. Isou proposed to liberate the architectural form from utilitarian goals, experimenting with typographical massing in his maquettes featured in this collection. Broutin's maquettes explore the Pyramid of Cheops' potential as a monumental hypergraphic structure, while Satié and Poyet's work explores the hypergraphic on an urban scale. Lettrist architecture focused on aesthetics and materiality, and experimented with the part as a whole. Like Lettrist work creating universal notation systems, meca-architecture encompassed a universal system of building materials, including any and all objects as possible building components, as illustrated in Micheline Hachette's piece, "Méca-esthétique pour la construction d'une demeure," where the rubber boot is presented as both possible building material and possible building form.
    Lettrist architecture explored the unbuilt as construction projected in an imaginary dimension. This is tied to the group's notions of the infinitésimale and super-temporelle, which are inter-related Lettrist concepts of imaginary and impossible works which can only be suggested or represented by surrogates in reality. Infinitésimale works often involved stimulation of the senses, in which a work invokes another thing, sense, or memory. Two of Isou's maquettes utilize veils and incandescent lights to suggest symbolic and allegorical imagined projects, while two of Sabatier's pieces pair objects (a mirror and a vinyl record) with hand-written quotes to imply works that must be imagined by the public. These works require participation on the part of the viewer. Likewise, the super-temporelle requires audience intervention, it demands the audience "fill-in" the work with their own ideas, meaning that the work is perpetually in an unfinished state and cannot exist within a typical temporal framework, which allows it to transverse temporal existence. These concepts are illustrated in the many drawings and maquettes included in this collection.
    Sources consulted:
    L'architecture lettriste : Ciselante, hypergraphique, infinitésimale & super-temporelle (1968-1988) : 20 ans d'architecture lettriste : Livres, plans, projets, maquettes . Paris: Didier Lecointre-Denis Ozanne, 1988.
    Acquaviva, Frédéric. Isidore Isou, Hypergraphic Novels, 1950-1984. Stockholm, Sweden: Rumänska Kulturinstitutet, 2012.
    Curtay, Jean-Paul, Letterism and Hypergraphics : the Unknown Avant-Garde, 1945-1985 . New York: Franklin Furnace, 1985.
    Failing, Patricia. An Introduction to the Theory and Practice of Letterist Painting : As Exemplified in the Oeuvre of Maurice Lemaître . Paper presented at the First International Symposium on Letterism, Lewis & Clark College, Portland, OR, May 26, 1976. Paris: Centre de Créativité, c. 1978.
    Lemaître, Maurice. What Is Letterism? : The Only French Avantgarde Movement Born Since Dada and Surrealism . Paris: Centre de Créativité, c. 1979.


    Materials by individual artists/authors are grouped together following the order in the catalogue of the sale exhibition at Lecointre-Ozanne. Titles are drawn from the catalogue.

    Indexing Terms

    Subjects - Topics

    Architectural design


    Didier Lecointre et Denis Ozanne (Firm)
    Broutin, Gérard-Philippe
    DuPont, Albert, 1951-
    Hachette, Micheline
    Isou, Isidore
    Poyet, François
    Sabatier, Roland, 1942-
    Satié, Alain, 1944-