Grand Gestures in Paris

Gestures, Paris, Grand

The Grande Nation has once again shown us the strength of a grand gesture: at a cost of just under 80 million euros, the French state has refurbished the east wing of the Palais de Chaillot on the Trocadéro in Paris and created a national centre for architecture...

and historic preservation (Cité de l`Architecture et du Patrimoine), making us here in Germany turn green with envy. With its 22 000 square metres, the monumental edifice – which took on its present-day form for the Expo ’37 – provides ample space for the French Architecture Institute (IFA), the “Musée des Monuments Francais” and the “Ecole de Chaillot”. In addition there are several galleries for various temporary exhibitions, a public library, lecture spaces, and space for manufacturers to present products. All in all, it is an ideal setting to instil architectural awareness in a heterogeneous audience. And this befits the curatorial concept, which specifies that there is to be something for everyone.
The collection of gigantic plaster-casts depicting segments of important buildings (including complete Gothic church portals at the original scale), and going back to Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, is expected to be a favourite with the general public, and will serve to draw visitors to the adjacent displays on modern architecture. Or to the permanent exhibition on the first floor, which sparkles, replete with impressive models – spanning from London’s Crystal Palace to the most recent designs for skyscrapers – and addresses issues including urbanism, structures and aesthetics. In mid-September, at the centre’s opening (Cité de l`Architecture), the new French President Sarkozy also showed that he understands the significance of the grand gesture by gathering architecture’s crème de la crème – from Norman Foster to Zaha Hadid, Jacques Herzog or Rem Koolhaas – to discuss new “très grandes projets” for Paris. CS
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