Text by Anna Bromwich
If you don’t have the time to embark on an architecture tour of France, an afternoon at Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine works just as well. The three galleries in the permanent collection are crammed with casts, copies and maquettes of the last millennium of French architecture and a program of temporary exhibitions spotlights architects and movements of note. If that just scratches the surface, there is also an extensive and accessible library.
Wandering the ground floor cast gallery or the segments of frescoed chapels in the painting section is akin to walking through a film set past facades unattached to a building. There is something surreal about coming across the wall of gargoyles or standing under a cupola of Cahors Cathedral that is only a few meters above your head. The casts can date back in age to 1880, sometimes outliving the building from which they were taken from and achieving heritage status in their own right. Equally the copying of significant French frescoes has been a skilled and painstaking task that also serves as a record of the fading originals. After centuries of churches and palaces, the upstairs modern and contemporary gallery brings us to an era of dynamic changes in the history of architecture.
This is the place to go if you want to know more about Haussmann’s Paris or to visit an example of a quintessential Le Corbusier apartment. Various temporary exhibitions are currently in full swing at Cité de l’Architecture including Maison Martin Margiela’s silver mirrored design for the Elle Decoration Suite on the fourth floor. The suite is the former apartment of the Palais de Chaillot architect, Jacques Carlu and every year is redecorated by a resident fashion designer. Margiela’s contribution is worth visiting with for its fake floorboard carpet and suite itself ends a long museum trip with a fantastic view over Paris. The Elle Decoration Suite is open 14h – 17h on weekends.
La Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine au Palais de Chaillot
ENTRÉE PRINCIPALE (pavillon de tête)
1, Place du Trocadéro et du 11 novembre, 16th
Ph. +33 1 58 51 52 00
Hours 11am-7pm daily except Tuesdays (and until 9pm on Thursdays)
Metro: Trocadero (6, 9)
ENTRÉE PAVILLON D’ABOUT (côté jardin du Trocadéro)
7, Avenue Albert de Mun, 16th