La Samaritaine: A Green Light for the Controversial Paris Project

La Samaritaine: A Green Light for the Controversial Paris Project

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La Samaritaine and the statue of Henri IV/ Photographer Adrian Scottow
La Samaritaine and the statue of Henri IV/ Photographer Adrian Scottow

For years now, Parisians have watched the dramatic saga unfold. La Samaritaine—the iconic department store that was founded in 1870 in the beating heart of Paris—is currently in the midst of a transformative project by owners LVMH (the luxury goods conglomerate). La Samaritaine was forced to close in 2005 because it failed building codes, and in 2010, LVMH sought to give the legendary building a new lease of life by commissioning the Pritzker Prize-winning architects at SANAA to redesign it.

The idea? La Samaritaine would morph into a luxury hotel, apartments (including some subsidized ones), and retail space. And with initial approval from the city, the construction project got underway in 2012.

La Samaritaine/ SANAA
La Samaritaine/ SANAA

Not without controversy. Opponents have fought tooth and nail to prevent the modernization of the structure in the historic city-center. After all, this is prime real estate just a stone’s throw from the Louvre, and the developers planned to cover one of the historic façades with panels of frosted glass. Overlooking both the Seine and rue de Rivoli in the first arrondissement, La Samaritaine is an Art Deco landmark that sits amidst some of Paris’s most symbolic architectural heritage.

La Samaritaine/ SANAA
La Samaritaine/ SANAA

The work screeched to a halt as the case went to court. The latest development? After a three-year legal battle, the court ruled last week that construction could resume on the €500 million project. La Samaritaine is now slated to open in late 2018.

The case of La Samaritaine sheds light on the greater issues at play in the future urban development of the French capital: the constant tug of war between preservationism and innovation in charting the course for the ancient city of Paris– a vibrant metropolis that’s also beloved as an open-air museum.

La Samaritaine/ SANAA
La Samaritaine/ SANAA

7 COMMENTS

  1. I’m with the conservationists on this one. La Samaritaine was one of my favourite stores in the late 60’s and its iconic exterior was in itself a Paris landmark. How sad that it will become another modern glass building, its Art Deco soul lost forever.

    • D’accord. I loved shopping the basement for hardware for our house in Boston. And just to see that wonderful pile from across the river was comforting and contrasting spectacularly with the nearby Coforama(sp?) in its looming ugliness.

  2. I think it’s wonderful. After living there for years I feel nothing but Paris’ history and charm oozing from its city streets. Although the facade will be contemporary, it will be frosted as to allow passerby’s get a glimpse of the gorgeous architecture inside. Brilliant. There is NO way they will not maintain its charm and Parisian style. I’m excited to see the final product.

    • You are out of your mind. This will destroy an historic, uniquely Parisian, Art Deco landmark. New Flash….they are not making buildings like this anymore, and when it is gone, that is the end!

  3. Thank you Bill for providing such interesting news relevant to francophiles everywhere. It’s great material for discussion with my tutor, en Français, bien sûr!

  4. Since our first visit to Paris many years ago, we have loved the old Samaritaine. The murals, the iron railings, the lovely architecture were so special. The pretty lights at night made us feel so happy and so at home. What a shame that such a beautiful icon of Paris is no more. It is sadly missed.

  5. I was 25 when I first visited Paris and now nearly 50 years later Istill remember my first to La Samaritaine,such a treasure Over the last 4 years I have watched with sadness since the lights went out,hoping for sympathetic renovation .Shame on the city fathers such a part of history and beauty will be lost forever.

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