Have you ever come across the French Ministry of Culture on the Rue Saint-Honoré? It’s a perfect example of the architecture of immaturity. The government ministry was formerly strewn across nineteen different sites throughout Paris. The decision was made to consolidate their offices in one place, and the suitably central location near the Palais Royal was chosen.
The main building on the site is a handsome building from the late nineteenth-century or at the latest 1900s, with a modern 1960s office building stuck behind it. The Ministère chose architect Francis Soler to “unify” the buildings into one. At first, this was meant to be done solely through an interior reorganisation, but Soler decided to add a strange grille to the façade.
A certain unity is achieved, but to what end? Soler’s veil feels like a cheap trick, and an unsuccessful one at that since through the grille we still perceive the difference in the two components of the building. It achieves little more than scarring an otherwise handsome and contextual façade. Furthermore, the windows and doors chosen for the renovation of the older building are inappropriate and feel out of place.
Another point is the failed engagement with the street. This area has many shops, restaurants, and the like and yet the Ministry has decided to keep for itself even the street-level space in the building. Why not rent the space out to various enterprises, which would act as a source of revenue and integrate the building better into the neighbourhood?