Sunday, March 15, 2009

Then and Now: 16 boulevard des Italiens, Paris

c. 1938 - 2009

The former headquarters of the Banque nationale pour le commerce et l'industrie, designed by Joseph Marrast and Charles Letrosne, was built between 1927-1930 in a staid and monumental style of Art Deco fitting for the showpiece of a major bank on the eve of the Great Depression. Nonetheless, the BNCI survived, later evolved into the Banque nationale de Paris, and in 2000 became the gargantuan BNP-Paribas, currently the Eurozone's largest bank. BNP-Paribas continues to hold offices in the building, as well as the one on the left side of the photo.

Paris' tradition of architectural continuity and uniformity proved to be unfortunately stifling with regard to Art Deco. Never quite free to deviate from established norms of massing, height, and color, its architects were unable to exhibit the same creativity that flourished in the United States, which to a large extent makes American Deco as beloved as it is today.

Sources: Structurae. "Si├Ęge de BNP-Paribas (1930)." Nicolas Janberg ICS.
Original Photo: "Paris - BNCI." Collection LAPI/Roger-Viollet. Parisienne de Photographie. 15 Mar. 2009.

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