Nestled behind the Mayor’s offices in the 3rd arrondissement of Paris stands the Carreau du Temple. This building and the site it occupies are rich in history, which is why the plan to raze the place in the 1970s for a parking lot went down in flames. Community action saved the monument from destruction and decades of planning have given us the exquisite multi-purpose cultural center that opened last month.
The Carreau du Temple owes its name to the Templar Knights of Pariswho constructed their European headquarters on this land in the 12th century. By the time of the French Revolution the Grosse Tour, the grand tower, was used as a prison. Its most famous inmates were undoubtably the King Louis XVI and his Queen Marie-Antoinette who in 1793 were imprisoned in the tower before befalling the fate of the guillotine.
The original buildings of the Knights Templar were demolished in 1808 to avoid royalist pilgrimages to the infamous prison.
The Carreau du Temple is most noted in modern times for its two century long role as a covered market specializing in clothing and fabrics.
The industrial revolution gave birth to new systems of construction and the cast iron, glass and brick building created to house the indoor market at Temple is a lasting exemple of 19th century innovation. After the astounding Crystal Palace presented at the Universal Exhibition in London of 1851 the benefits of cast iron were etched in, well, glass. It took little time for the technique, which permitted large open spaces to be covered with out obstructing the natural light, to catch on in France. The structures of Les Halles, begun in 1854 but now destroyed, were a formidable example.
Lucky for us, the Carreau du Temple is a lovingly preserved example, the 1863 structure recently readapted by the Parisian architecture firm Studio Milou. The natural light is the first you thing you notice, as well as the lovely woodwork imagined by the Studio Milou. The space is decidedly neutral and peaceful and perhaps most importantly, adaptable.
The Cultural Center
The new Carreau du Temple, open at the beginning of 2014 is a center dedicated to fostering culture in the Paris community. There’s a large auditorium which seats up to 250 on the ground floor, as well as a bar/restaurant. There are 1,600 square meters of space consecrated to events, exhibitions, athletics (sports, dance yoga and more), pop-up stores, or anything else for which the public can make a case. The hope is that this will be a place for artists, designers, musicians, actors, teachers, young and old alike, to come together to grow and enrich the community.
In nod to the building’s vestimentary past, the center has declared itself particularly open to fashion designers, both esthablished and upcoming. Many runway shows have been presented here in the past and recently Saint Laurent was the first to show here since the renovations.
The appeal and adaptability of the Carreau du Temple hold promise of a luminous future for this unique space. The sophisticated repurposing of this historic place encourages the cultural renewal set to benefit the 3rd arrondissement and Paris as a whole as the new Carreau du Temple lays down roots.