The French newspaper Le Monde has moved four times in its seventy-eight-year history. Its latest move was in 2020, when the company’s 1,600 employees (at least those who were not working remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic) moved into this striking new building at 67-69 avenue Pierre Mendès-France, in the 13th arrondissement.
The building’s unique design, with all its weight resting on foundations at both ends and a large bridge-like curve in the middle, is not the result of any sort of architectural whim, but rather because the building straddles some of the tracks and platforms of the Austerlitz railway station. The space underneath the curve is a plaza which is open to the public on most days.
According to L’Arca International magazine, the building has a translucent shell “made of over 20,000 pixeled glass elements in a layout cleverly designed to cater for 772 possible configurations to inject its surfaces with dynamism and light that varies with the weather.” The offices have floor-to-ceiling windows, and many have “large open-plan spaces with heating, air-conditioning and lighting incorporated in the ceiling to allow maximum flexibility. 1200 m of photovoltaic panels installed on the roof cover 33% of the building’s electricity requirements.”
When I was there, Le Monde was holding a ‘festival’ underneath the curve on the occasion of the 39th annual European Heritage Days in the middle of September. This included several free guided tours of the building, but by the time I tried to reserve a place the tours were already fully booked, so I’ll have to try again next year.
(Up to now I had never been able to visit Paris for the European Heritage Days, because September was always our busiest month at the Frankfurt Adult Education Center, due to the start of the autumn semester.)
As I have mentioned elsewhere, the name Le Monde means ‘The World’, and the paper is indeed notable for its coverage of news from countries all over the globe. In the 1960s, I persuaded my employer to subscribe to Le Monde for just this reason.
At that time I was working as news director of a non-commercial radio station in Berkeley, California, and our news sources were very limited — to an extent that is hard to imagine today. We had an Associated Press teletype machine that clacked away day and night in a closet and provided us with the news from America and the Vietnam war, but not much about Europe and rarely anything about countries in Africa, Latin America or most of Asia. So we could quote from Le Monde two or three days after its cover date, and provide information that would still be news to most of our listeners.
For the past decade I have had an online subscription to Le Monde, so I no longer have to wait for it to be delivered by snail mail.
This is where I docked my Vélib’ bike when I went to see Le Monde’s new building. Most of the bikes, the green ones, are non-motorized. The few blue ones are electrically assisted.
The metal bridge in the background is the Austerlitz Viaduct, used exclusively by line 5 of the Paris Métro. The stone bridge even further back is Austerlitz Bridge, which Jean Valjean crossed on foot in Victor Hugo’s novel Les Misérables, while carrying the sleeping child Cosette and trying not to be seen by Inspector Javert and his men.
My photos and text in this post are from 2022.
See more posts on the 13th arrondissement in Paris.