Text: Anna Bromwich
Perched on Quai D’Austerlitz on the old industrial banks of the Seine is a 21st century Emerald City. The Cité de la Mode et du Design is a converted storehouse wrapped in a vibrant green, wavy skin that was designed to echo the murky Seine running beside it.
Cité de la Mode opened mid 2010 along with its complex of boutiques, restaurants and exhibition spaces all pertaining to the theme of fashion and design. The building also plays host to the post-graduate fashion design and management school l’Institut de la Mode. However, it is the Cité’s adventurous architecture which is the greatest testament to its use. Twenty years ago this part of town was a run down industrial zone. Stretching from Gare d’Austerlitz to Boulevard Général Jean-Simon, a visit to this corner of the 13th arrondissement was easily bypassed unless you happened to be tugging a boatload of merchandise up the Seine.
Since 1991 the area has been subject to a massive urban redevelopment plan, which has seen the district renamed to ‘Paris Rive Gauche’. Although the district centralizes the 24 storey Bibliothéque Nationale de France, it appears that architecturally speaking, the jewel in the crown may in fact be the Cité de la Mode et du Design.
Franco-Kiwi duo Dominique Jakob et Brendan MacFarlane, who won the contract in an open competition, took the existing 1907 warehouse structure and overlaid a web-like network of green-painted steel, screen-printed glass and wooden decking which form walkways along the river and lead to a grassy landscaped rooftop.
The architects nicknamed this concept the ‘Plug-in’: plugging a new structure and concept into the old, thereby manipulating its form and use. The decision to retain the original building, which was not an obligation, has given a contemporary project a sense of history in the midst of recent development, which has changed the landscape dramatically.
Cité de la Mode et du Design
34 Quai d’Austerlitz, 13th
Ph: 01 76 77 25 30
Hours: 7/7 10am-midnight
Metro: Gare d’Austerlitz (10)