The Really Uber Grand Palais in Paris

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The fabulous Cartier:  Style and History Exhibit I went to in December is being held at the Grand Palais in Paris.  The Grand Palais is located off the Champs Elysees and is a famous historic building as well as a gallery and an exhibition hall.

Built in 3 years in 1900 for the World Fair, the building combines a main structure of iron and glass with a stone facade in the Beaux Arts style.  Inside, the building has a smattering of Art Nouveau style too.  At the time of its creation, this juxtaposition of styles and materials was quite exciting and innovative.

Building this massive building proved quite a challenge.  The builders drove 3400 oak piles into the ground to support the foundations. The facade is really grandiose and depicts allegorical figures special to fine arts.  Four architects worked together on the design of the building.

grand palais façade

The dome over the nave which is the centrepiece of the building is 45 metres high and 200 meters long.  Although massive, the dome still appears relatively light because of the openwork construction.grand palais dôme

Under the dome is the magnificent staircase designed to show off the affluence and elegance of the World Fair visitors.  The art nouveau touches can be seen on the staircase.

grand palais staircase

The fashion for World Fair buildings to be created from glass is actually a result of the design for The Crystal Palace which was built for the London World Fair in 1851.  Glazed buildings were popular because they were easy to build.  You could make the components off-site and then assemble them at the exhibition.  In addition, glass lets in lots of light which shows off the displayed items to their best advantage.

The French took the concept of a glazed exhibition building to the extreme with the Grand Palais.  With 6000 tonnes of steel in the structure, the Grand Palais actually has more steel than the Eiffel Tower.  The glass roof of the nave is still the largest glass roof in Europe.

grand palais roof

At the Cartier exhibit, the glass roof and walls were blacked out in order to display the jewellery to its best advantage with display-specific lighting.  In addition, there was a fabulous light show on the ceilings and walls highlighting the brilliance of assorted jewels.

Every year, the Grand Palais has 40 events and approximately 2 million visitors.  You have exhibition space in both the nave and the additional transepts.  If you have the chance, the Grand Palais is a fabulous place to take in an exhibition.

Have you been to the Grand Palais in Paris?  What do you think?


8 thoughts on “The Really Uber Grand Palais in Paris”

    1. the building is great isn’t it? Leave it to the French to take a conference center and elevate it to the sublime. Makes Earls Court and Olympia look like the ugly stepsisters.

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