The architecture of Jacques-Ignace Hittorf, a masterpiece of taste from the 1860s, found itself disfigured by projects whose budgets exploded.
I think this is good news. You have probably read it in the press of Wednesday September 22, as long as you stay tuned to the French newspapers. SNCF throws in the towel. She breaks her contract with the company Ceetrus, which is part of the Auchan group. The pharaonic expansion of the Gare du Nord will not take place. It must be said that the budget had exploded, indicating a total inability to manage anything. The amount initially announced was 600 million euros, which already seemed too much. We were then in 2018. In 2020, we were talking about 900 million. This year, it became a question of at least a billion and a half. The only planned shopping center was no longer to cost 380, but 760 million. I do not mind being told today about the return of inflation, or even stagflation. But all the same …
The dailies were content to embroider around a dispatch, without thinking too much. A bit like you flush the toilet, once your duty is done. In fact, it’s quite a story that could be told. There was initially another project. It was in 2015. A consortium of architects led by Jean-Michel Wilmotte had submitted to SNCF an idea that filled Anne Hidalgo with ease. The mayor of Paris thought that the French capital would be able to race with Saint Pancras in London. It must be said that the Gare du Nord is considered unhealthy and poorly frequented. I would refrain from confirming, having used it often without ever getting alpaca. The idea actually illustrated Anne’s inferiority complex to England. She wanted luxury boutiques everywhere. In one version of the project, Wilmotte, who is not characterized by his taste, even considered lining part of the current facade with glass walls. The defenders of heritage are suddenly mounted to the barricades. In this way, the last Jacques-Ignace Hittorff (1792-1867) masterpiece, built between 1861 and 1866, was to be sacked. A poorly protected masterpiece. The station is admittedly registered in the inventory of historical monuments, but not classified.
Post office, performance hall
and jogging track
Then this project, which made one think (but less horrible all the same) of the glass pudding affixed by Jean-Marc Dutilleul around the venerable station of Strasbourg, disappeared in the drawers. Not a word. There was therefore a second plan, the current one, assumed by the tandem Denis Valode and Jean Pistre. The two men run the largest architectural firm in France, with branches as far as China. They are construction wholesalers, in a way. Here we are now in 2018. It is their idea which is now in the trash, with the “forfeiture” of Ceetrus pronounced by the SNCF. This time, the mayor of Paris was one of the strong opponents. There had even been legal actions against a monster accumulating stores to the detriment of train users, while providing a post, an auditorium and a “green” jogging track on the roofs. You need to stretch your legs when you get out of a Eurostar, everyone knows that.
The new station, in keeping with the old one. Side entry planned. Simulation by Bureau Denis Valode and Jean Pistre.
Today is therefore over. Temporarily, of course. We just know that there will be no new station for the Rugby World Cup in 2023 (it seems that this is an important event), nor for the Olympic Games in 2020. But afterwards everything, for a brand new Notre-Dame and a matching Grand Palais, is also grated too. We will have to do more modestly, starting from scratch. Or even be content with little. A senator from Haute-Vienne is demanding work here capping at 50 million. Let’s be reasonable! After all, after years of watering cans with various subsidies, Macronian France will one day have to come back down to Earth.
A building to be classified
Above all, while there is time, we should take an interest in the beautiful Hittorff building, which has remained functional for a century and a half, while the Gare Montparnasse in the 1970s is inefficiently ruined. The Gare du Nord, which takes up the style of decor experimented by this architect of German origin in nearby Saint-Vincent-de-Paul (a church in a pitiful state), is one of the best public buildings erected in Paris under Napoleon III. . To be honest, it is one of the beautiful specimens in Europe with that of Antwerp, Florence, Milan, Rouen or Metz. It should first be classified. Then we should see the needs of our time. Luxury boutiques everywhere, when we switch to e-commerce and the bulk of travelers crossing it morning and evening come from the suburbs, it does not make sense. Besides, don’t you find Anne Hidalgo’s fascination with luxury bizarre? She is a socialist, and as such a candidate for the Elysee Palace. It must be said in his defense that in Paris as in Geneva, the Socialist Party still believes itself to be on the left, while it is at best in the center … Hence certain collusions.