Roland Castro, architect and figure of May 68, is dead

Architect Roland Castro, in his Paris office, January 31, 2014.

Roland Castro, architect and former political activist, died on Thursday March 9 in Paris. He was 82 years old. His itinerary married the torments of the end of the XXe century. Figure of May 68 and French Maoism, he will gradually refocus, always keeping his heart on the left, even in his support for Emmanuel Macron.

His work as an urban architect is known for achievements such as the Bourse du travail in Saint-Denis (Seine-Saint-Denis) in 1983, the Belfort-Montbelliard University of Technology, the International City of Comics in Angoulême ( 1990), the rue de Bagnolet complex (2009) or the restructuring of the Quai de Rohan in Lorient (1996).

Roland Castro’s parents – a Jew from Thessaloniki and a Spanish Jew – fled Paris during the exodus. Castro father gets hired in a porcelain company near Limoges, as a worker. Roland Castro was born there, shortly after, in October 1940. “Spanish Jews were not deported until 1943 due to an agreement between Franco and Hitler. But, in 1943, that changed. Roundups affect everyone. And the whole village where we were, Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat (Haute-Vienne)protects us, said Roland Castro in 2020. I have a debt to my country, a debt to the Communist maquis of Limousin. They were wonderful with my family, with my sister and with me. »

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After the war, the Castros returned to Paris. As a teenager, young Roland honed his political awareness. “In 1954, it was the beginning of demonstrations against the war in Algeria. I participate in it immediately. But I get arrested. » Problem: it falls right in the probationary period of the request for naturalization of his parents… Despite their fears, they will finally become French. A classic story of immigrants and proofs of love. “I am very influenced by the national novel, even if my ancestors are not at all Gallic. The Gallic spirit, everyone has it when they enter France: we become grumpy and boring! »

This “Gallic spirit”, therefore, Roland Castro put it forward a little later, when he was a student. After a quick transition to the Unified Socialist Party, he joined the Union of Communist Students (UEC) in 1962 while at the Beaux-Arts.

Activist and agitator

At the time, the UEC was a melting pot that brought together the entire revolutionary left. The young Castro is in the “Italian” trend which claims to be part of the transalpine brother party, more open (especially on culture) and less dogmatic than the PCF. There, solid friendships are forged, for example with Jean-Pierre Le Dantec, also an architect, or the former minister Bernard Kouchner. Roland Castro then frequents Alain Krivine, Henri Weber, Pierre Goldman, Robert Linhart or Tiennot Grumbach and opposes the takeover of the UEC by the PCF.

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