The ephemeral Grand Palais on the Champ de Mars in Paris, with the reflection of the Eiffel Tower.
It only took a few months: the ephemeral Grand Palais, which sprang up in the shape of a white cross on the lawn of Champ de Mars, is now ready to host trade fairs and exhibitions and, in 2024, Olympic Games events. Close to the Military School, which towers 16 meters above it, and with a view of the Eiffel Tower, this light 10,000 m2 structure, designed by architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, will be inaugurated on June 12.
Made of spruce wood, the round building reproduces the shape of the Grand Palais, now closed on the other side of the Seine. It replaces it for the duration of its renovation, three years. A new nave had to be invented to host the International Contemporary Art Fair (FIAC), the Chanel fashion shows, the Saut Hermès (show jumping) and other prestigious events.
44 monumental arches
Covered with a transparent polymer canvas, the ephemeral Grand Palais “is like a UFO that has landed on the Champ de Mars. It’s aerial architecture,” says Chris Dercon, president of the Réunion des musées nationaux (RMN)-Grand Palais, “Last August you could still play boules here,” recalls Jean-Michel Wilmotte. After several months of preparatory work, 44 monumental arches were assembled on site in three months.
The entrance is through a glass hall where the façade of the Ecole Militaire is reflected and which includes the renovated statue of Marshal Joffre. Then opens a nave with an asphalt floor and a midnight blue vault. No posts break the space, which is 51 m wide and 33 m deep. Above, six layers of soundproofing form an acoustic cushion.
The exhibition area is 9,900 m2. Each year an additional light structure will be added to provide FIAC and Paris Photo with up to 18,000 m2. The maximum capacity will be 9,000 visitors.
The organizing committee of the Olympic Games “Paris 2024” has planned to install stands from July 2023 to accommodate the following year 8,000 spectators for the wrestling and judo events. But a period of cohabitation between the organization of the Olympic Games and the events organized by the Grand Palais is envisaged.
“Here, at night, the trees, the buildings and the illuminated Eiffel Tower come in through the bay windows. It’s almost like a vampire’s palace! “Chris Dercon welcomes this “dialogue with everything that happens around” and also “with the whole past” of two centuries of industrial fairs in this place. The play of reflections even superimposes the Eiffel Tower and the Ecole Militaire in a new and surprising way.
Jean-Michel Wilmotte defends an “eco-responsible” project: “Spruce is a farm wood. In the whole of the European forest, this construction site corresponds to an hour and a half of growth, which is very symbolic! “.
The polymer is from a mineral source, generating 90% less energy in its manufacture than glass, and is entirely recyclable. The electricity supplied is guaranteed to be 100% renewable.
In September 2024, dismantling will begin. “The building was made to be sold in pieces,” explains the architect. Five main pieces that can be reused, rebuilt elsewhere. SMS proposals are already arriving to the architect.
The construction site has been entrusted to the company GL Events. Its cost is 40 million euros. An amount that will be covered, it is assured, by the rental income received by the Rmn-Grand Palais and the contributions of the Organizing Committee “Paris 2024”.