Pavillon de l’Arsenal

The Pavillon de l’Arsenal describes itself as “the centre for information, documentation and exhibition for urban planning and architecture of Paris.” They say it is “a unique place, where information concerning urban development and architectural realisations in Paris is available to everyone.”

I’ve been there a few times, and there was always enough going on to give the place a feeling of excitement and enthusiasm.

Admission to the pavilion is free. It is open Tuesday to Sunday from 11.00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

The pavilion is located on what used to be an island, the Île Louviers, which was separated from the rest of the city by a small branch of the Seine. In 1843 this branch of the river was filled in to form what is now Boulevard Morland.

Interactive digital map

In the center of the pavilion is a large interactive digital map — “large” meaning 37 square meters — which serves to illustrate lectures and discussions. They say the map was “developed in partnership with Google and JCDecaux”, and from what I have seen it seems to work like a gigantic version of Google Earth (or Google Maps), but with planned or projected new developments included so that past, present and future views can be compared. Presumably the lecturer can stand on the metal mesh platform at the left side of the photo.

JCDecaux, by the way, is the outdoor advertising company which ran the first-generation Vélib’ bike sharing system in Paris from 2007 to 2017. Unfortunately they did not win the contract to continue running Vélib’, and the new company messed it up quite badly in 2018, but JCDecaux still runs Vélo’v in Lyon and similar bike sharing systems in other cities.

Traditional plaster map

This city map is almost historical, a traditional plaster model of Paris at a scale of 1:2000, made in the 1990s. This map used to be in the center of the pavilion, but in 2011 it was moved off to the back to make room for the new digital map

Paris past, present and future

The permanent exhibition, called “Paris, a city in the making”, devotes equal space to the past, present and future of the city.

The Middle Ages

The permanent exhibition starts with the Middle Ages, with explanations in both French and English. The English version of this first panel reads: “Paris became the capital of the Kingdom of the Francs circa 506-508, and capital of the Kingdom of France in the 12th Century. It was a powerful city which made its mark and spread its model throughout the land. After the Hundred Years’ War, towards the end of the 15th Century, a time of prosperity began, disrupted only by a few bouts of the plague. Paris had roughly 100,000 inhabitants. The structure, economy and form of the territory were organised under the leadership of the Monarchs.”

The Pavillon de l’Arsenal is located at 21 Boulevard Morland, 75004 Paris.
Website in English:

My photos in this post are from 2014. I revised the text in 2018.

See more posts on the 4th arrondissement of Paris.

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