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Elle Decor Italia

France’s most precious library is now restored and even better

The Richelieu Quadrangle, one of Paris’ most iconic cultural monuments, goes through the renovation project by Atelier Bruno Gaudin

Marchand Meffre

The first section of the Richelieu-Louvois Library – one of Paris’ most relevant cultural monuments, which houses the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Bibliothèque de l'Institut National d'Histoire de l'Art and Performative Arts Department – has been recently re-opened after long years of renovation works. Atelier Bruno Gaudin is author of such complicated and meticulous project in close cooperation with the Superintendence of Culturale Heritage, whose goal was to both preserve and enhance the buildings’ historical values (progressively widened with gradual yet independent extensions) while planning a comprehensive modernization also intended to enable contemporary use of the place.

Photo © Marchand Meffre

The Richelieu Quadrangle’s apparently homogeneous façade hides a fair number of different buildings built in different times, each embodying unrelated and autonomous codes and architectural values. Far from being unitarian, the whole complex is punctuated with massive courtyards, covered alleys, lodges and hallways that mostly interfere with its contemporary uses.

Photo © Takuji Shimmura

Bruno Gaudin Architects started from an accurate survey of the status quo by isolating the pavilions’ original sections from further interventions and superfetations introduced at a second stage so to simplify the space layout and interior connections. The result? An almost invisible architecture aimed to radically revolutionise the pre-existing heritage in the name of improved accessibility and a new light shed on this historical jewel.

Photo © Marchand Meffre

Fancy an example? Before Bruno Gaudin took over, there used to be 30 different staircases connecting Richelieu’s 14 floors; today, the complex’s vertical distribution is totally revised and develops around selected strategic hubs, which adjoin the quadrangle’s different areas together, while creating a smooth architectural promenade and yet leaving the original compositional rigour untouched. To this purpose, the buildings’ renewed functionalities and safety features emerge out of well-shown technical elements, which deliberately stand at the core of the project and justify all casings’ shape and dimensions, not to mention any structural and space choice taken.

Photo © Takuji Shimmura

The reading room, known as the Salle Labrouste, boasts steel and timber vaults suspended on ultra-thin pillars in order to provide a rational but lyric reading perimeter. Its renovation project was carried out by Jean François Lagneau, architect in chief of Monuments Historiques, who was asked to restore the room’s original vivid colours, while ensuring that the space was compliant with modern day building codes and regulations. 

Photo © Takuji Shimmura

Focused on additional renovation interventions on the Library, the Richelieu Quadrangle’s phase 2 construction is scheduled to start in 2017 until 2020. 


Cosa vedere a Parigi

by Massimiliano Giberti / 17 February 2017


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