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Moratorium for a Grand Staircase

cabinet des médailles

The decision seems to be final at the old National Library of France: after having assisted at the international symposium (which ended a couple of hours ago) on the question of the future and development of the old building, the architect having shown his designs, and the official spokesman having made his rambling point in front of an international board of architectural historians, architects and other official experts, I can honestly say that there seems to be no more life left for the grand monumental staircase designed by Pascal for the grande dame of european libraries.

The solid stone structure is to be replaced by a new bland corporate-style circular staircase that is supposed to be showing a greater fluidity and transparency than the old one. Oh glory, what a way to go! Why restore the Labrouste reading room and storage spaces back to their original state, and even restore the grand oval room designed by Pascal, if one goes ahead and demolishes the one and only grand staircase that the building ever had? It may not be the prettiest one there is, and it does have an awkward way to connect the levels, but it is a witness of the past, and part of the heritage, if not national but also on an international level.

Why demolish something which is irreplacable by today's means of architecture, and replace it with something as exceptional and spectacular as any stereotypical helicoidal staircase that stands in any modern construction site you may have come across?

The new staircase will most certainly be a shining beacon of mediocrity compared to the noble old one.

Let us just hope that future generations will only judge today's generation by the monuments which they conserved, and not by the ones they demolished with no real purpose.

cabinet des médailles
I didn't have the chance yet to take a good picture of the staircase, so I'll use the one below, 'borrowed' from the BNF site.

If you are in the neighborhood of the library, come inside and pay homage to these dying steps on which generations of researchers, scientists, writers, thinkers, artists and politicians have moved around, before it is being taken apart and replaced with the shiny and new.


P.S. please go see the Cabinet des Médailles at the end of the staircase, before they shut it down in its current version as well. They need some cheers in there right now.

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2 Responses to “Moratorium for a Grand Staircase”

  1. # Blogger ArchitectDesign™

    What an awful decision. I agree that anything else would be mediocre by comparison and LOVE the last statement: Let us just hope that future generations will only judge today's generation by the monuments which they conserved, and not by the ones they demolished with no real purpose.  

  2. # Blogger Louis Duke

    I completely agree.
    We'll be in Paris next week!
    So excited!  

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    I am Cedric, discoverer of things that would go unnoticed in the streets of Paris, historic haven of fashionistas and city of lights ('lights' as in 'enlightenment', not street lights).
    But seriously: I'm an expat from Luxembourg (the country, not the garden), living in the center of Paris (hence 'Paris 2nd arrondissement'), and currenlty studying architectural history...


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