In order to put an end to a serious postwar housing crisis, the town of Saint-Denis launched its social housing policy with the construction of the Paul-Langevin and Colonel-Fabien housing estates. For André Lurçat, Saint-Denis's architect, these projects were the first in a long series of commissions. Lurçat, was an architect and town planner, and a follower of the French school of Functionalism. In Saint-Denis he implemented his concept of the "garden city", an autonomous neighbourhood with airy and well-spaced buildings, shops, social services, and abundant green spaces. The Colonel-Fabien project, which was started in 1948, was built on former military grounds that the city acquired when the fortification zone around Paris was declassified.
In addition to these housing ensembles, Lurçat designed eight school complexes and the Palais des Sports. The austere, geometrical outline of this functional architecture still has a profound impact on the appearance of Saint-Denis's housing.