Already announced in 2010, Grand Palais restoration works have been delayed across the years: how come? Renovation costs have been first estimated to 236 million and re-estimated to 390 million euros under the François Hollande presidency, without being validated, and now, restoration works will cost some 466 million euros. And a few months before the renovations begin, the financing issue is back on the tale. Too ambitious for the post-coronavirus world?
The construction site is of epic proportions. According to Culture minister Françoise Nyssen, “[Grand Palais] is now in an extreme state of dilapidation and fragility that, over time, it jeopardizes its capacity to remain open to the public and needs upgrading up to standards. Beyond restoring the historic monument, works will aim at dramatically transform the distribution of the spaces, including the creation of Rue des Palais and the deep modernization of the building functioning.”
After harsh negotiations, the project selected must gather the Grand Palais and the Palais de la Découverte, and rise the capacity of the place, from 10,000 to 20,000 people, by opening up the space. The problem? It is not built for the post-covid world. And it is expensive: 466 million euros, including 128M of subsidies from the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, €160M of subsidies from the “Grand Plan d’investissement” [Large Investment Plan], €150M of Rmn-GP loan, €25M from Rmn-GP patronage, €3M of museography Universcience partnerships.
Le Figaro daily reveals business mdoel relies on a maximal frequentation of the place. To repay the loan, they need 10 million euros by year from 2025, thanks to tickets, events, and other by-products. According to the president of the Réunion des Monuments Nationaux - the site belongs to - : "The calendar not the budget are questioned. We will keep our commitments as of the size of the cultural project and its cost. It is starting to move. Calls for offers are ready to be launched. We do not want to say no to the original ambition that is to give the nave back to the public, find a unity between the Palais de la Découverte and the Grand Palais, and increase the flow within this unique place".
Grand Palais works will revolve around several points:
Reinforcing Grand Palais domestic and international drawing power in the field of shows and privatizations
After the works, the Grande Nef will be able to welcome about 11,000 people (twice as many of the current capacity). Its balconies, accessible to the public, will be linked to the whole galleries allowing an exceptional 22,300-sqm layout to welcome wide-ranging events. Areas currently closed to the public will be opened including reception rooms of varied sizes and catering areas.
Modernizing Palais de la Découverte to make sciences accessible to all
Grand Palais works will be the occasion to rethink Palais de la Découverte, open since 1937 and never renovated since then. The aging museography will be entirely corrected thanks to digital while keeping the same proximity with young people thanks to the scientific mediation and the on-spot experimentations.
Displaying wider exhibitions
In the future Grand Palais, 6 adjustable exhibition galleries, from 500-sqm to 600-sqm each, will allow to think wider temporary exhibitions, as well as areas for a permanent tour promoting French art thanks to funds from the Agence Photographique de la Rmn-Grand Palais [Rmn-Grand Palais Photography Agency], the room displaying Grand Palais story, the Salle du Trésor [treasure room] regularly displaying a work coming from domestic and territorial collections.
This project is entrusted to François Chatillon, chief architect of the Historic Monuments from the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, who has been driven by the harsh observation that “visitors who make the link between the glass-roof, the Galeries Nationales and Palais de la Découverte are rare; even rarer than those able to name Grand Palais architects.
Changes conducted over time for using matters ended up by screening the great strength of the plan outline and the high volumes. Issues of this restoration consist in unveiling its outline and organization, rediscovering its incredible luminosity and revealing its decors”.
So, for this work site, François Chatillon asked out Umberto Napolitano and Benoît Jallon from the LAN Agency. This agency is entrusted with the construction of the Théâtre du Maillon in Strasbourg, development and coordination of new neighborhoods in Bordeaux and Nantes or the construction of one of the highest wood building in France as well.
So, will we get the Grand Palais 2.0. or not? Time will tell us, but the Olympic Games cannot wait!
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