At the end of the 19th century, the communes of Passy, Auteuil and Chaillot, which were still countrified, were incorporated into the capital providing vast available spaces for architectural experimentation. Art Nouveau was the first style to appear, introduced by the French architect Hector Guimard. He was the leading figure of the movement in France and was himself inspired by the figurehead of this movement, the Belgian Victor Horta. From the 1920s onwards, Art Deco became the dominant style. Geometry won out over curves, horizontality over verticality, and volutes disappeared in favour of symmetry.
Entrance doors, balconies, metro stations, shop windows, the pediments of buildings … the west of Paris is full of small and spectacular illustrations of these two artistic movements of the early 19th century. Architectural treasures to be discovered during a walk in the 16th arrondissement.
1 / Café Prunier
Stroll up towards Place Victor Hugo to re-join the avenue of the same name. At number 16, on the corner of Rue de Traktir is Café Prunier - an architectural gem. Designed by the architect Louis-Hippolyte Boileau in 1925, the restaurant has large glass windows and a magnificent stunningly detailed blue mosaic facade by Auguste Labouret. Although circles predominate, there are also sunburst semi-circles, pentagons, stars, jellyfish, and fish; geometric and animal motifs are typical of the Art Deco style.
Café Prunier – 16 avenue Victor Hugo, Paris 16th
2 / Hôtel Pauilhac
Rejoin the Avenue Raymond Poincaré, where at number 59 stands the Pauilhac town house, an example of late Art Nouveau. Built in 1911, the ground floor and the first two floors have the typical curves around the openings and sculpted pine branches and cones, while the roof evokes the Gothic style, as reflected in the curved skylights. This mixture of styles was the hallmark of the École de Nancy.
Hôtel Pauilhac - 59 avenue Raymond Poincaré, Paris 16th
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3 / Cité de l’Argentine (closed for renovation)
Continue along Avenue Victor Hugo pausing at number 111 to admire the Cité de l’Argentine, also known as the Galerie Argentine, in the Art Nouveau style. Designed between 1904 and 1907 by Henri Sauvage and Charles Sarrazin, it takes its name from the Argentine businessman Mayol de Senillosa who commissioned the construction. This shopping gallery, inspired by the covered passages of the 18th and 19th centuries, has a visible metallic framework in blue cast iron and a succession of two glass roofs, one fishbone-shaped and the other square-shaped providing soft overhead natural light. The second floor, with its loggia, is embellished with a delicate ironwork walkway. The ground floor still houses various shops.
Cité de l’Argentine – 111 avenue Victor Hugo, Paris 16th
4 / Guimard metro entrance, porte Dauphine
Guimard’s signature metro entrances (glass roofed or open structures with railings and the overhead sign ‘Métropolitain’) are an iconic part of the cityscape. The Porte Dauphine has one of the finest examples. An authentic model in the ‘dragonfly’ style, the entrance is characterized by long stems referred to as ‘a sprig of lily of the valley’ in wrought iron and equipped with a double-sloped glass roof. The work illustrates the main principles of Art Nouveau: the use of metal, inspiration from flora and fauna and fluidity of curves.
Did you know? 380 Guimard metro entrances were designed between 1899 and 1904. Only 86 remain today, across 66 metro stations.
Porte Dauphine, Paris 16th
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5 / Building at number 115 avenue Henri Martin
Continuing along Avenue Henri Martin, at number 115 you will discover an example of ‘French equilibrium’: buildings with studied proportions, the work of the architect Michel Roux-Spitz. He built this block, known as the ‘White Series, in 1929 and 1931. It is an illustration of the spare Art Deco style of the period. The volumes are large, the rows of windows are perfectly symmetrical, and the bays have replaced the bow windows.
115 avenue Henri Martin, Paris 16th
6 / Restaurant Bon
In the Chaillot district, the restaurant Bon (previously the florist Orève) redecorated by designer Philippe Starck has retained its delightful architecture dating back to 1910. Situated at 25 Rue de la Pompe, the building features ochre and pale blue glazed bricks, sculpted motifs, a superb period hothouse and a mosaic of plants on a gold background depicting garlands of oak and chestnut trees. Lecourtois, the architect, imagined a facade with two orientations: the shop is orientated towards the street, while the building faces south-east.
Restaurant Bon - 25 rue de la Pompe, Paris 16th
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Take a detour via Rue Vineuse to see several plain facades with clean and minimalist lines, positioned often at the crossroads of two streets. The cut sections are indeed typical of the Art Deco style, which avoids right angles. Then walk towards Rue de l’Assomption.
7 / Numbers 44 and 50 rue de l’Assomption
At numbers 44 and 50 in Rue de l’Assomption, two buildings illustrate the Art Deco trend. Decorated with fruit baskets and wrought iron spirals, and featuring pediments or exposed stairwells, they are made up of a wide variety of materials. The economic difficulties of the inter-war period compelled architects to use less refined materials, and sandstone was used along with concrete, iron, and brick.
44 and 50 rue de l’Assomption, Paris 16th
8 / Castel Béranger
Completed in 1898, Castel Béranger, in the la Muette district, is considered to be the founding work of Hector Guimard. It won the young architect first prize in a competition for the finest new building facade in Paris. This facade differed greatly from the architectural codes of the time! The colours in aqua green, orange and beige are bright and the group of buildings is interspersed with bay windows, some of them jutting out with the appearance of watchtowers.
The entrance door has a curvilinear asymmetry, the balconies are particularly elaborate, and the building is made up of a disparate but nevertheless harmonious ensemble of brick, ceramic (typical of this style), glazed sandstone, metal, and stone. Finally, various animals, such as the wrought iron seahorses along the facade, illustrate the imaginative freedom that characterizes the Art Nouveau style. Hector Guimard also worked on the interior decoration designing wallpaper, door handles and the carpet. (Visit possible)
Did you know? As well as its advocates, Art Nouveau, which was freely inspired by the natural world and favoured curved lines and arabesques, also had its detractors; the latter referred to the artistic movement as the ‘noodle style’ and gave the Castel Béranger the pejorative nickname ‘Castel dérangé’.
Castel Béranger - 14 rue Jean de La Fontaine, Paris 16th
Also in Rue Jean de La Fontaine, this same style can be seen at numbers 17, 19 and 21, and further on at number 43 Rue Gros as well as at numbers 8-10 Rue Agar. Observe the facades of cut-stone, columns with plant motifs around the doors, undulating lines all the way up the building, and cast-iron street signs with white lettering on blue enamel.
9 / Hôtel Mezzara
At number 60 Rue Jean de La Fontaine, you’ll find the Hôtel Mezzara, built in 1910. A more sober style here is evidence of the evolution of the style of Hector Guimard, fifteen years after Castel Béranger: exuberance has been replaced by refinement. This elegant town house for Paul Mezzara, an artist and friend of the architect, has custom-designed interior spaces and a glass roof overlooking a central patio. On the street side, an elegant and well-proportioned facade is set back from the gate decorated with wrought iron brambles and flowers to create an opening that aerates everything. (Visit subject to authorization)
Hôtel Mezzara - 60 rue Jean de La Fontaine, Paris 16th
10 / Hôtel Guimard
Nearby is this town house named after the architect. Guimard had it built in 1909 (his monogram is sculpted above the door) and made it his home and design studio. Again, you can see floral motifs and curves framing the entrance doors and windows, as well as a large variety of different volumes between the openings and also between the levels: the 3rd level is wider, while the 4th level is set back to create a balcony and a canopy. The elaborate wrought ironwork and the presence of glass are characteristic of the Art Nouveau style, which places great importance on details and the letting in of light. The two lanterns, visible on the 3rd floor balcony, are a recurrent feature of the architect's work.
Hôtel Guimard - 122 avenue Mozart, Paris 16th
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11 / Rue Heine and rue Chardon Lagache
The building at number 18 Rue Heine is one of Hector Guimard’s last works in the Art Nouveau style. Built in 1926, the architect has abandoned ornamentation for a more refined style announcing the new Art Deco trend.
18 rue Heine, Paris 16th
At number 16 Rue Chardon Lagache, an Art Deco building by Jean Hillard, dating from 1934, has two remarkable vertical bas-reliefs extending upwards over the four floors.In these works by the sculptor Georges Maxime Chiquet, one bas-relief is on the theme of work in the vineyards, the other on the theme of agricultural work in the fields. Nearby is the Chardon-Lagache station, a metro entrance by Guimard featuring a handrail and two lamp posts.
Building at number 16 rue Chardon Lagache, Paris 16th
12 / Hôtels Deron-Levent and Jassédé
Continue your walk, pausing at number 8 Villa de la Réunion to observe the Hôtel Deron-Levent, an Art Nouveau town house by Hector Guimard. The building has a two-part facade. Its wrought ironwork is of great finesse, especially the gutter on the top floor, which seems to be supported by wrought iron torches. The white stone windows are topped with magnificent sculptures.
Hôtel Deron-Levent - 8 villa de la Réunion, Paris 16th
A few steps away, at number 142 Avenue de Versailles, you will find the Hôtel Jassédé. Also built by Hector Guimard. The architect mixes different building and cladding materials – brick, cut stone, millstone. The building has staircase windows and colourful ceramic floral friezes.
Hôtel Jassédé - 142, avenue de Versailles, Paris 16th
13 / L’École du Sacré-Cœur
To the south of the Auteuil district, the walker can admire another work by Hector Guimard, the former École du Sacré-Cœur, built in 1895. This little-known work was inspired by the work of Viollet-le-Duc which the architect admired. The school was supported on cast-iron pillars designed in a V-shape to free up the ground area for a playground. Today, a residential building, the ground floor is glass fronted.
École du Sacré-Cœur - 11 avenue de la Frillière, Paris 16th
14 / Route de la Reine and rue du Commandant Guilbaud
Return to the Place de la Porte de Saint-Cloud. At number 5 stands a group of well-appointed brick buildings topped by a stepped gable and decorated with mosaics.
5 place de la porte de Saint-Cloud, Paris 16th
In Route de la Reine, you will see some impressive white buildings in the style of a cruise liner. This style, similar to Art Deco, is based on the aesthetics of shipbuilding, which was very popular at the time. The facades have little ornamentation, roof terraces, pediments with cut-off sections and porthole windows.
Route de la Reine, Paris 16th
Next, head in the direction of Rue du Commandant Guilbaud. At numbers 3 and 9 the architects Jean Boucher and André Chauveau opted for an Art Deco mixture of stone and white brick. The wrought ironwork or bas-reliefs are also prominent and depict bouquets of flowers and a pineapple palm tree. Also, the four different styles of entrances enhance the building and keep it from becoming too monotonous.
3 et 9 rue du Commandant Guilbaud, Paris 16th
15 / La piscine Molitor
Continue along Rue du Commandant Guilbaud past the roundabout and turn into Rue Nungesser et Coli. At number 13 you will discover the splendid Piscine Molitor. Built in 1929 by the architect Lucien Pollet, this municipal swimming pool evokes a white liner with Art Deco lines. The stained-glass windows are by Louis Barillet.
A popular place for Parisians to cool off in summer, its outdoor pool was transformed into an ice rink in the winter until the 1970s! Closed in 1989, it became a scene for street art. Now a listed monument, the place, after many transformations has been turned into a luxury hotel. The pool, famous for its blue changing cabins, stained glass windows, mosaics, and Art Deco facade, has been reconstructed to return it to its original state.
Did you know? the bikini was worn for the first time in July 1946 at the Molitor swimming pool during a bathing costume contest!
Hôtel Molitor Paris – MGallery – 13 rue Nungesser et Coli, Paris 16th
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