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Local Matters / Architecture & Landmarks

Paris store La Samaritaine’s renovation on hold

Paris store La Samaritaine renovation

A French court of appeals recently blocked the restoration of former Paris department store La Samaritaine on the grounds that its Rue de Rivoli façade does not match its historic setting. 

The legendary Art Nouveau and Art Deco building is known affectionately as “La Sama” by Parisians and occupies a prime 70,000m2 site in the first arrondissement, facing the Seine. La Samaritaine had its heyday in the 1930s, but later declined and was bought by luxury brands group LVMH in 2001. LVMH was forced to close the building in 2005 for safety reasons.

The renovation work has been dogged by controversy from the start. At issue is the design by Japanese architects Sanaa for a giant undulating glass façade on the Rue de Rivoli. Local heritage preservation groups protested, saying that it clashed with the style of the street, which is noted for its classic 18th and 19th century buildings.

The plans had been approved by the City of Paris, the Culture Ministry and Bâtiments de France, which protects historic buildings. But a French court upheld protestors’ complaints and revoked one of the planning permits in May 2014. It then allowed work to resume provisionally in October 2014. The appeals court upheld its judgment in January 2015.

LVMH planned to transform the site into a five-star hotel, offices, shops and apartments at a cost of around €450 million. It has said it will appeal to the French Supreme Court.

The original plan was to reopen La Samaritaine in 2013. The legal wrangle is expected to push this back until at least 2016.

Image ©Nathan Stazicker

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