1895 - 1900

The Grand Palais, the birth of a monument

Rmn-Grand Palais

Built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900, the Grand Palais has reflected the historical, economic and cultural evolutions in France ever since.

The Grand Palais
Located along the Champs-Élysées, the Grand Palais was designed to demonstrate France's artistic and technical prowess. Since 1901, it has also played host to many prestigious events: motor shows, air shows, interior design exhibitions, equestrian events, major art exhibitions and more. Since opening, each of these events has attracted thousands of visitors, making the Grand Palais one of the key cultural locations in Paris
The turn of the century
The plan to host the 1900 Universal Exhibition in Paris was set out by French President Sadi Carnot in 1892.
A new vision for the area
This was an opportunity to learn the lessons of the previous Paris Universal Exhibition in 1889, which was marked by difficulties crossing between the banks of the Seine and a lack of any prestigious exhibition space.
Creation of a new district
The Exhibition would cover both banks of the Seine, from the Champs-de-Mars and the Trocadéro to Châtelet and the Parc de Vincennes. A decision was made to create a new district opposite the Invalides. A competition for suggestions was launched in 1894. This resulted in a project for two palaces, one on each side of an avenue that would lead to the Invalides over a bridge. It was also decided that these buildings would remain in place after the Exhibition.
An architectural contest
Once this plan was selected, a grand architectural contest was announced in the Official Journal of 22 April 1896. It declared that the former Palace of Industry from the Universal Exhibition of 1855 would be knocked down. It was too vast and inconveniently located, obscured the view of the Invalides and prevented the new avenue from being built. From around one hundred proposals submitted, there were twenty that met these requirements.

These projects reflected the fashions of the era: symmetrical façades, a profusion of decorative sculptures, columns, a central dome, etc.
None of the three proposals was selected.

A shared project
After the final vote, no single project was chosen, although prizes were awarded: Albert Louvet received first prize, with Henri Deglane and René Binet coming second and Albert Thomas third. The competition jury decided that Grand Palais would be a combination of several proposals. The main façade and the nave are the work of Henri Deglane (1855-1931).

Albert Louvet (1860-1936) was allocated the middle section (between the nave and the Palais d'Antin), the staircase and the Salon d’Honneur.

The rear section or Palais d'Antin (now home to the Palais de la Découverte) is the work of Albert Thomas (1847-1907).

Petit Palais architect Charles Girault (1851-1933) was also charged with coordinating the whole project.

The building
The Grand Palais is constructed in the form of an 'H', with an inclined axis on the Palais d'Antin side. The entire building has a basement that houses stables, storage areas and workshops. The interior consists of the nave, the middle section with the Salon d'Honneur upstairs and the Palais d'Antin. The side galleries of the nave and a large number of staircases facilitate movement around the building.

The Universal Exhibition and the creation of the Grand Palais district helped to promote the 3rd Republic as powerful and enterprising.

The new district was dedicated to the Franco-Russian alliance. The bridge was named after Tsar Alexander III. The first stone was laid in 1896 with Tsar Nicolas II in attendance.

After the Universal Exhibition, the Grand Palais would remain the property of the State.

The Petit Palais was offered to the capital and would become the municipal museum of Paris in 1903.

Parisians and visitors to the Exhibition would soon come to admire this incredible sight, stretching over one kilometre to the Invalides.

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.

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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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