Paris now has a new museum of French architecture, which exhibits scaled-down models ranging from cathedrals of the 11th century to replicas of today’s ultramodern constructions. The 23,000 sq. m Cite de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine (City of Architecture and Heritage), with about 11,000 sq. m space for exhibits, is housed in a wing of the Chaillot Palace, near the Eiffel Tower.
The site was once home to a little-known museum of French monuments. It will also host an architecture institute and a library. “There is no point in being so proud of our architectural heritage and continuing to be stingy in maintaining it,” French President Nicolas Sarkozy said at the inauguration.
Officials hope to draw 500,000 visitors to the museum every year. French presidents historically seek to put their artistic stamp on the city of Paris. François Mitterrand marked the capital with the Louvre Pyramid and the Bastille Opera. Jacques Chirac, Sarkozy’s predecessor, launched the Quai Branly Museum of the so-called tribal arts. While plans for the new museum predate Sarkozy’s four-month-old presidency, he suggested at the inauguration that rather than leaving a monument for posterity, he wanted to “give new ambition and a new creative dynamic” to the government’s architectural policy.
Saying that French architecture needs more “audacity,” he offered a harsh assessment of France’s post-war building policies. “The hell of urban life is paved with the best architectural intentions. It is time to return to humane, sensitive, creative architecture...architecture based on an analysis of reality, rather than denial of it,” Sarkozy added.