Top 10 of modern and contemporary architecture in Paris Region
Their collections are priceless and people come from all over the world to admire them. But these emblematic buildings of avant-garde design and aesthetics, imagined by the greatest architects, Le Corbusier, Jean Nouvel, Frank Gehry… also deserve to be admired from the outside.
Here is a brief overview of these remarkable modern and contemporary architectures of the 20th and 21st centuries. Archi-photogenic, they have everything you need to feed your Facebook and Instagram accounts. From the Louis Vuitton Foundation to the Philharmonie de Paris, from the Villa Savoye to the Louvre Pyramid… embark on an architectural tour of Paris and its region!
Fondation Louis Vuitton
A strange, ship-like structure, decorated with 12 monumental glass stars, planted in a prime location in the middle of the Bois de Boulogne. Welcome to the Fondation Louis Vuitton. Frank Gehry’s building is a masterpiece of lightness and transparency, completely unique in its concept and aesthetic. Though the Fondation is recognised for its rich programme of cultural events, it is worth a visit purely to admire the architecture. From its various terraces, you can enjoy an extraordinary view of Paris and its outskirts.
Things to do at the Fondation Louis Vuitton
With its enormous coloured pipes and external escalators, the Centre Pompidou is the most recognisable landmark of them all. Located in the lively Marais neighbourhood, at the heart of historic Paris, this building, designed by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers over 40 years ago, was long considered a UFO in the Paris landscape, before rightly coming to be considered as a modern architectural marvel. It is home to the Musée National d’Art Moderne and its collection of priceless 20th- and 21st-century art. Don’t miss the breathtaking view from the terrace on the 6th floor.
Things to do at the Centre Pompidou
Visit Poissy, to the west of Paris, to discover an astonishing white structure with pure, simple lines that appears to be standing on stilts in the middle of its one-hectare grounds. Built between 1928 and 1931 by Le Corbusier, one of the greatest architects of the 20th century, villa Savoye, with its pilotis, wide windows and roof terrace, is like a manifesto for modern architecture. This architectural gem is a Unesco World Heritage Site!
The Louvre Pyramid
Inaugurated in 1989 as a new entrance to the museum, the Louvre Pyramid by Chinese-American architect Ieoh Ming Pei quickly became a landmark in its own right. Made up of 673 glass panels, it has the same proportions as the Great Pyramid of Giza, and the shape is an apt choice given the museum’s remarkable collection of ancient Egyptian pieces. An inverted pyramid can also be found in the underground shopping mall, the Carrousel du Louvre!
Things to do at the Louvre Museum
To the west of Paris, at the foot of the Domaine National de Saint-Cloud, lies the new cultural hub that is the Seine Musicale. Like a towering ocean liner, the building’s shape perfectly mirrors that of the downstream tip of the Île Séguin, the island on which it stands. Designed by famous duo Shigeru Ban and Jean de Gastines, to whom we also owe the Centre Pompidou – Metz, the building is topped with an iconic “egg” which houses its auditorium. That sphere, with its glass-covered wooden frame, is paired with a “sail” made up of over 1,000 m² of photovoltaic panels, which pivots according to the position of the sun.
Things to do at the Seine Musicale
Philharmonie de Paris
World-renowned architect Jean Nouvel is the man behind this futuristic building in the La Villette Park, which has become one of the temples of the Paris music scene. This silver, metallic-looking cathedral of the arts, covered with 340,000 aluminium birds, is home to a concert venue with remarkable acoustics. Don’t miss the panoramic view over Paris and the surrounding region from the top.
Arab World Institute
Opposite Notre-Dame and the Ile Saint-Louis, the glass and steel curves of the Arab World Institute (Institut du Monde Arabe) stretch out along the Seine. A modern architectural symbol of the dialogue between Western culture and the Arab world, designed by Jean Nouvel, Architecture Studio, Gilbert Lèzenes and Pierre Soria, it reproduces the defining features of classical Islamic architecture, with nods to the greatest structures in the Arab world. The mashrabiyas of the main façade are iconic.
Grande Arche of La Défense
La Grande Arche, erected by Johan Otto von Spreckelsen to mark the bicentenary of the French Revolution, towers over the bustling district of La Défense. It adds a modern touch to the line of great Parisian landmarks that begins at the Louvre and follows the Champs Elysées to the west, taking in the Arcs de Triomphe on Place de l’Etoile and its sister arch at the Carrousel du Louvre. The roof of the Grande Arche is home to a restaurant and offers a peerless view over the French capital.
Musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac
Concealed by the dense vegetation of its gardens, the Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, just next to the Eiffel Tower, is a true gem of contemporary architecture. Perched on stilts on the banks of the Seine, the building resembles a long bridge encrusted with multicoloured boxes. Designed by Jean Nouvel to provide a showcase for the art and civilisations of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas, its shape mirrors its vocation as a builder of bridges between cultures.
Things to do at the Musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac
The Canopy of Les Halles
Replacing the old Willerval pavilions, the Canopée des Halles has transformed the heart of Paris. Architects Patrick Berger and Jacques Anziutti took their inspiration for this steel roof from the curved shapes of the trees in a forest canopy. The structure shelters the Westfield Forum des Halles as well as cultural facilities such as hip hop centre La Place. Like a gigantic undulating leaf, 18,000 glass panels let the daylight in, serving as a link between the city below and the city above.
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- Copyright image: CRT IDF/Tripelon-Jarry