Architectural Stand-Off

victoires5On opposite corners of the Rue de la Victoire two unlikely neighbours stand facing each other. Rejected, forgotten and closed to casual visitors, these two very different structures pass the time exchanging tales of former glories. As they see pedestrians scuttle past their locked and guarded entrances, they can only wonder when times and fashions will enable them to open their doors wide once more.

At number 37 Rue de la Victoire, a teal-blue refurbished cruise liner sits waiting for passengers and a chance to set sail again. Created in 1958 by the architects Jean Balladur and Benjamin Lebeigle, this lightweight, elegantly curved creation was a revolution when it arrived in the city. victoires3This was the first entirely moduble building in Paris with no internal structural posts. Built around a steel skeleton, with a flexible skin of glass and steel stretched across the frame, it was nevertheless inside that the difference could truly be appreciated. The Caisse Centrale de Réassurance, who moved into the structure, were able to appropriate the space as they wished, throwing up temporary non-supporting dividing walls wherever they were needed.

Reflected in the glass façade of this building is the far more imposing structure of the Grande Synagogue de Paris. Built between 1867 and 1874 by the architect Alfred-Philibert Aldrophe in Romanesque/Byzantine style, this is a building that had a slightly more troubled beginning.

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