April 13, 2008
by Canadian Architect
The newly reopened Muse des Monuments Franais (Museum of French Monuments) on Chaillot Hill marks the completion of the Cit de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine (Architecture and Heritage Centre), a 23,000-square-metre complex in Paris that is unique in the world. This museum, research and training centre was opened by the President of the Republic in the presence of invited top global architects.
Its mission is to bring public awareness to the architecture of both past and present, but also to promote a better understanding of urban, environmental, landscape, housing, and quality-of-life issues, all of which are central concerns among French people. The opening ceremony held in the Galerie des Moulages (housing life-size fragments of architectural masterpieces) of the superbly renovated museum provided French President Nicolas Sarkozy with an immediate opportunity to express his wish to “give people a taste for boldness in architecture,” stressing that “culture is not an adjunct to the soul, it is the very soul of civilization.”
“Using architectural heritage to draw people in and develop their curiosity about contemporary architecture,” is how the president of the Cit, Franois de Mazires, defines the purpose of this majestic complex opposite the Eiffel Tower, which comprises three different institutions: the Muse des Monuments Franais, successor to the Muse de Sculpture Compare (Museum of Comparative Sculpture) founded in 1882 at the instigation of Viollet-le-Duc; the French Institute of Architecture (IFA), which focuses on contemporary architecture, founded in 1980 to “promote architectural and critical debate” and to “bring architecture into the cultural sphere of French people,” and the cole de Chaillot, where specialists in architecture and heritage are trained. They are all now housed in the east wing of the Palais de Chaillot, built by Gabriel Davioud for the 1878 World Fair, then renovated and enlarged by Jacques Carlu for the 1937 World Fair, and now restored and redeveloped in spectacular fashion by the architect Jean-Franois Bodin, at a total cost of 80 million euros.
The cole de Chaillot, which dates back to 1887, is now entrusted with a training mission that is at the heart of the Cit initiative, with a great many educational and cultural activities addressed to all sectors of the public, young and old, outside the circle of specialists. It continues to train heritage architects, and hosts a great many foreign students, cooperating with countries such as Syria, Bulgaria, China and India. But this is the first time that a museum has offered public courses in architecture open to everyone, supported by a rich program of exhibitions. Its first exhibition on heritage architecture, which has just opened, pays tribute to Vauban, “Builder to the Sun King” (Louis XIV).
For more information, please visit www.citechaillot.fr.