Courtesy of Cite de l'architecture
The townhouse is a key part of Paris’s architectural character and we can trace the story of the capital by studying the development of the townhouse in different districts of the city.
The Parisian town house made its first appearance in the Middle Ages and became more popular during the 16th century when, thanks to François I, Paris again became the political capital where the monarchic state assembled and settled. It was important to be at court, near the King, and, therefore, at Paris. This golden age continued throughout the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. The last of the townhouses were built in the period between the two world wars, marking the end of a long history, but they still exist in today’s 21st century Paris and are very much in use: (museums, embassies, ministries). This exhibition aims to explore this history and takes the visitor on three complementary and illuminating journeys, in a bid to discover the secret of the Parisian town house.
The first section features a small reconstructed townhouse, between garden and courtyard, with different authentically decorated rooms for the visitor to explore. In this way, each visitor can enjoy a sense of familiarity with, and ownership of, the building. The building is not an exact replica of an existing townhouse but aims rather to convey a general impression, an overall picture, with each “external” and internal space specifically designed for educational purposes.
In the second section of the exhibition, the visitor will take a journey through the history of the townhouse, this time organized chronologically, from the Middle Ages to the Belle Epoque. This part of the exhibition, displayed in a vast open space, presents a series of large models of townhouses, specifically chosen for their distinctive characteristics - hôtels de Cluny, Lambert, Thélusson and finally the Palais-Rose (these last two buildings no longer exist - complete with an interactive terminal with wonderfully illustrated information on some 300 town houses.
The last section offers themed reading, examining the Parisian hotel as an architectural object. Three “alcoves” will be devoted to the relationship between the city and the townhouse - a relationship which was both passionate and destructive. A further three sections allow the visitor to explore the external architecture of the townhouse (façades overlooking gardens and courtyards), its interior décor, gardens and finally internal layout. To complete the display, there is a multi-touch screen on the layout and organization of the townhouse, presented in a fun way.
Exhibition designed and produced by la Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine/Museum for French monuments with support from the National Library of France and the Carnavalet Museum. The exhibition has benefited from sponsorship by Bouygues Bâtiment Ile-de-France and the support of Tricotel.
For more information please visit: Cite de l'architecture et du Patrimoine - musée des Monuments français