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Contesting the Renovation of the Historic Poste Centrale in Paris, France

The Poste Centrale du Louvre in Paris, France

Even though the Poste Centrale of Louvre Street is not found within the area usually covered by the "Vivre Le Marais!" blog, the restoration of the largest distribution center for mail in France is important. The project, entrusted to the architect Dominique Perrault in 2012, is rather illustrative of the difficulties that arise between contracting authorities (the Groupe La Poste's property operator in this case) and defenders of cultural heritage who wish to preserve an exceptional example of 19th-century architecture.

The Hôtel des Postes du Louvre in a Few Words

Unveiled in 1888 at the corner of Louvre Street and Étienne Marcel Street, the Poste du Louvre building is the work of architect Julien Guadet. One of the structure's exceptional characteristics is its vast metallic naves, some of which measure to about 90 meters long! Since the 2000s, the fate of the building has been in question. After drawing up the conversion plans, completing a historical study, and launching a consultation with architects, the project brought in Dominique Perrault in 2012, the architect behind the François Mitterand Library.

Main Goals of the Project

The structure of 35,000 m2, (made up of a post office, the Hôtel des Postes, and several administrative services dubbed "L'usine postales") will be redesigned by Perrault to house businesses, offices, a police station, and a luxury hotel-restaurant with outdoor seating. 12,000 m2 of housing are also planned. As a result, the initial function of the building as a post office will be reduced to 21% of its area, while 18% will be dedicated to public services, and 61% to businesses.

A drawing of the Poste Centrale by Julien Guadet

…Which Does Not Fit in with a Historic Paris

People are raising their voices to speak out against this renovation project and to call attention to the threats that hang over this building, which is not registered as a historic monument. The association Sauvegarde et mise en valeur du Paris Historique (Preservation and Development of Historic Paris) organized a day for studying and discussing the future of the Hôtel des Postes rue du Louvre in November 2013. For this event, several Spanish architects came to speak about the central post office in Madrid, El Palacio de Comunicaciones, which was renovated between 2005 and 2011 by the architect Francisco Rodriguez de Partearroya in order to accommodate new activities without detracting from the original structure. Historians of architecture, architects, and urban planners took part in order to stress the special nature of the structure and its metal framework which Jean-François Cabestan, a historian of architecture and professor at the Sorbonne, considers "one of the masterpieces of the Third Republic's industrial architecture."

Post Immo, who directs the prime contracting, plans to destroy a large part of the structure, notably part of the interior, in order to create a large courtyard in its place. This would result in eliminating some of the metallic naves, as well as the original flooring. Although Post Immo is waiting for a construction permit, they are preparing to begin construction as soon as they are given the green light. And the Paris Historique organization intends on bringing this matter to administrative court.

Aside from registering buildings for protection, what kind of measures or organizations can resolve conflicts between preservation interests and the desire for architectural conversion?

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

Original article, originally published in French, here.