If Escorial was ever a great work of the Hispanic world defended by Felipe II and how long it took to complete its construction, the rehabilitation of La Samaritaine, one of the most famous, beloved and representative department stores in Paris, is located. On rue Rivoli, next to the famous Pont Neuf, it can be considered a kind of French escorial, as it took fifteen years for the City of Light to recount it among its heritage treasures; Now that the great Gallic surviving forces have finally re-inaugurated on 23 June, Emmanuel Macron was at the head of an initiative by France’s richest man, Bernard Arnault, then-president of LVMH, the holding company that brings together many peoples. Big names in luxury (though not Chanel), they want to make it a symbol of a nation that wants logic to rise from the ashes of the fire called the coronavirus.
This was precisely because of the risk of going up in flames in the style of the Windsor building and the fact that it did not comply with any safety requirements that the 21st century demanded of buildings intended for large people that it The Colossus, born in 1830, had to be closed in 2005.
The decision was controversial from the very first moment, not only because of the huge cost that would be involved in the reinstatement, but because it involved the dismissal of 1,450 employees who were promised to be transferred or to receive compensation. Unions at the time saw the fire hazard logic as a ploy to facilitate the firing of long-stay employees. When the work was finally underway, controversy was generated by opposition from heritage conservation associations, who believed that these works would deeply damage the city’s architectural identity. These associations, which had the support of the city council, were unable to prevent the collapse of two historic buildings in pre-Houssian Paris or the demolition of three of the four most iconic facades, but they were fundamentally opposed to the destruction of a quarter. Were. . Of all the changes included in the project, the one that was most stinging was A giant wavy sheet of glass designed by the Japanese studio Sana, 2010 Pritzker Prize; Ironically, it is this decorative solution that now stands as the jewel in the crown: on its surface all the surrounding historical buildings are reflected, which, according to its creators, favors its complete integration.
However, despite the apparent architectural and urban qualities of the project, there are those who consider its implementation at this time to be an obscenity. Just two days earlier activists of the ultraworld NGO ATTAC opened a massive giant on a renovated building, with portraits of Arnault, his partner and telecommunications investor Patrick Drahi, founder of Kering, among other great luxury conglomerates, François Pinault and François Bettencourt. Daughter of the last L’Oreal heir, Lillian Bettencourt. On their faces you can read a big headline which read: “Beneficiaries Group. “
Established by a traveler named Ernest Cognac with the help of his wife, Marie-Louise, this business, next to the drinking fountain known as La Samaritan Fountain, was not always that large. Born to a shy little girl, she was from Bon Marche, one of the most famous shopping centers in Paris, along with Lafayette.
This type of establishment, which inaugurated commerce as we know it today, was the place where the best goods came from colonial routes, becoming a symbol of prosperity and social life in the Belle poque. It should come as no surprise that mile Zola baptized them as “the cathedrals of modern leisure”: they all offered women their main audience—the possibility to move freely among wares, something that was popular at the time. was a revolutionary innovation and which generated a great influx of customers who were going not only to buy but also to visit, something that had not been done before the advent of this consumer model. At the height of 1925, La Samaritaine was already composed of four separate buildings, with Belgian architects specializing in art Nouveau Frantz Jourdain transformed into a magnificent entity.
In 1933, the store underwent another major renovation, led by Henri Sauvage, which added an art-deco touch. The place was synonymous with abundance in the worst years of the war, like London’s Harrods, where, they say, supplies never failed (some prisoners freed by the Vichy went there to make tailor-made suits to return to their places). Originally). In the sixties, the most advanced and chic fashion could be found there. This location only went into decline in the 1980s, when middle-class shopping malls made their presence felt on the outskirts of cities around the world. Although its terrace continued to offer one of the best views of Paris, its structural degradation began to become apparent and goods for sale began to lose the patina of sophistication that had always characterized them. In this renovation, a primary objective has been to preserve and shine its iron structure with balconies in various Eiffel-like heights, its incredible staircase and its magnificent rectangular metal-framed glass that fills the main hall with light. All this has been taken care of by the Canadian study Yabu Pushelberg. Other great achievements of this reopening are the intimate recovery of peacock multicolored frescoes on lava enamel by Volvik, designed by Francis Jourdain and Eugene Grasset in their day.
The reopening of La Samaritan was scheduled for mid-2020, but the world came to a halt in March of the same year. LVMH has invested a figure (750 million euros) in this work as a pharaonic, which includes a luxury hotel, Cheval Blanc (which will open in September this year), multi-brand stores and, paradoxically, 95 social Accommodation is included. The Paris City Council will offer those at risk of social exclusion. Arnault has promised Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo that he will create at least 2,000 jobs, more than the jobs destroyed in his days. For the moment, the number of people applauding him and Macron were 700 on the opening day, leaning out from the railing of this iron and glass prodigy. Protests from ATTAC activists, who believe this new life of commercial project is a symbol of the tremendous economic inequalities the pandemic is creating, demanded that the main beneficiaries of this business pay taxes. For his part, the President of the Republic on the day of the official ceremony, when everyone was still smiling, said: “There are times when the work you do is a perfect metaphor for this time.”