November 13, 2011

Pomp and Politics

Salle des Fêtes

The Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) commands respect as it stands tall in the center of Paris, overlooking the Ile de la Cité and the Seine. Imposing on the outside and lavishly decorated on the inside, the building has a dramatic history as well as an important role in contemporary city life.

WICE members were treated to a private tour last week, with a focus on the beautiful reception rooms that are used to welcome foreign heads of state to Paris, and to host other official city events.

The building and its salons are relatively new, even though activities at the Place de Grève (now renamed Place de l’Hôtel de Ville) began in 1357 (a square that has served as everything from a port for unloading wheat and wood, a venue for celebrations, a meeting point for day laborers to find work, a setting for public executions, and a magnet for manifestations.)

The first city hall was completed in 1628, but was burned (along with all of the city’s archives) in 1871 during the Commune revolution. The new building, completed in 1882, was created to be almost identical to the original Renaissance design.

A highlight of the building is the Salle des Fêtes, the largest reception room, designed with the Versailles Hall of Mirrors in mind. The paintings represent the history of dance and music, and the French creed of liberté, egalité, fraternité is proudly emblazoned on the ceiling. The walls are gilded with gold leaf, the chandeliers are Baccarat, and the silk curtains are woven in Lyons (identical to the original 17th century curtains).

Amidst all the rich décor of this building, the business of the city is carried out. The “City Council” meets with its 163 councillors representing the 20 arrondissements, and Mayor Delanoë conducts business in an office that is refreshingly minimalist and a tribute to contemporary art.

A Room with a View
Since the mayor was busy in his office, we didn’t get to stop by, but all the Hôtel de Ville rooms are open during the September journée du patrimoine.

We did find out that anyone can rent the reception rooms for special events. The Salle des Fêtes can be yours for 6,000 euros per hour. Pourquoi pas?

WICE Hôtel de Ville Enthusiasts
WICE is offering upcoming tours of the 10th arrondissement (click here for more info), La Sorbonne (click here), and the Manufacture de Sèvres (ceramic arts) (click here). Join us!