1993 - 2005

Preparing for the future

Rmn-Grand Palais

In July 1993, during the "Design, mirror to the century" exhibition", a rivet fell from the metal roof. The diagnosis was without question: the state of decay in the building was such that access to the nave was closed.

A sombre diagnosis
Other rivets feel in the following days. Safety nets were erected. Decades of use without any precautions and a lack of maintenance had put the metal framework in peril: rust had spread through the whole building.

Exploration revealed that the water table had fallen. As the piles were no longer submerged, the oak piles that supported the foundations had rotted and the ground had subsided.

Saving the Grand Palais
The works would be complicated. Saving the monument would require the foundations being rebuilt and restoration of the metallic framework – 6,000 tonnes of steel and 15,000 m2 of glass panes reaching 45 metres in height. Just as one century before, the task was enormous.
First phase of works (2001-2004)
The most urgent task in 2001 was to provide the structure with solid foundations. On the north side, 2,100 columns of liquid concrete were injected up to 12 metres in depth to reinforce the floor. On the south side, still underground, partitions were installed to isolate the building from its environment (the Seine is near) and concrete foundations rebuilt.
Repairs to the metal framework
Once the ground had been stabilised, restoration of the framework could begin. It was spectacular. An gigantic scaffold resting on 54 jacks was installed: it raised the 2,000-tonne dome by several centimetres, in order to relieve pressure on the rest of the building. Damaged sections and missing rivets were replaced in the old fashioned way.

The framework was then cleaned before being protected with anti corrosion paint.

Grand Palais Green
The restoration works revealed the original colour of the metal framework: a pale mignonette green. Created by the Ripolin company, this colour made them a fortune at the start of the 20th century: fashionable at the time for garden furniture and greenhouses in fine properties, the Universal Exhibition helped to popularise the shade. With time, the addition of layers of paint had gradually led to a rather grey and miserable tone. Traces of the original pigment were analysed and compared with the colour charts in the Ripolin archives: this colour would henceforth be known as "Grand Palais Mignonette Green".
Restoring the quadrigas
The quadrigas had primarily suffered from corrosion to their plinths. They were disassembled piece by piece and reinforced. There protective green patina was restored using accelerated oxidation.

In April 2004, after 4 years of restoration, the south-west quadrige is back on the roofs of the Grand Palais.

Second phase of works
This phase involved the restoration of the roofs, façades and decoration. Two years were required for removing all traces of the negative effects of pollution, moss and bird droppings and to replace sections damaged by the elements.
A staggering result
Light flooded into the Grand Palais nave once more, just as its designers had intended a century before.

Visit the nave of the Grand Palais.

Vue de Paris depuis les toits du Grand Palais

Credits: Story

We would like to thank all the people who have contributed to the construction of this journey through the Grand Palais and those who have given us valuable time and information as well as permission to reproduce their documentation.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions (listed below) who have supplied the content.
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