◀︎  About us

Pavillon de l'Arsenal

Housed under a large nineteenth century cast-iron hall, in the historic heart of Paris, Pavillon de l’Arsenal is a living space for all urban disciplines. Paying particular attention to the making of the metropolis, and a pioneer of emergent architectures, the center for architecture and urbanism of Paris and the Parisian metropolis is a meeting place for exchange and learning that is free and accessible to all.

Pavillon de l’Arsenal produces exhibitions and documentaries, publishes books and digital content. It’s also a creator of debates, featuring those who re-think and actively design the city. Through a unique and benevolent programming around the dynamic presentation of the shaping of the French capital, the Pavillon celebrates creativity and the diversity of attitudes to allow everyone to better grasp and share the issues around construction that are behind and before them.

In these times of great climate challenges, supporting research and experimentation forms the other key issue addressed by the program. The FAIRE program, launched in 2017, is the first dedicated urban accelerator and incubator. Every year, in addition to our in-situ operations, it provides funding and support to a dozen project teams with innovative practices and experimental approaches in order to enable participants to analyze, prototype and full-scale test1 responses to key challenges related to architecture, landscape, design, and society.

Our nonprofit business model also reflects this drive for innovation, collective construction, and shared benefits. It is supported by mixed funding, including a subsidy from the City of Paris and funding from operators in the real estate, construction and urban development sectors that are active in the region. With the assistance of the municipality, sponsors, one-year corporate partners, and those who provide specific support to particular events, we are inventing a virtuous model, which reflects the new synergies that are actively building Greater Paris.

In order to make these insights resonate beyond the scope of our research, every year Pavillon de l’Arsenal participates in an average of ten presentations that take place beyond our walls. Within, we place the emphasis on the creativity and vibrancy of all protagonists involved, including project owners and metropolitan creators, while outside is where we share best practices and new potential uses.

The leading European center for architecture and urbanism, Pavillon de l’Arsenal invites everyone to embrace and experience the transformation of the city as it is re-invented and re-imagined.

Each year, Pavillon de l’Arsenal puts on or produces:

20 exhibitions
10 publications
70 conferences
300 guided tours of the exhibitions
150 courses and workshops

and welcomes:

50 foreign delegations
15,000 children
200,000 visitors.

The Pavillon de l'Arsenal is a non-profit association under the French Law of 1901.

History of the building

The Pavillon de l'Arsenal opened in December 1988 and is located in the historic district of Paris, just a step away from the Place de la Bastille and the Marais, on the banks of the Seine. It is located on the former Louviers Islande, on the border of the old neighborhood that sheltered the King's Arsenal, a ammunition depot and gunpowder factory.

A small arm of the Seine used to separate the island from the Arsenal, built under Henri IV. In 1843, this space between the island and the right bank was filled up; the island was connected to the land and became what is known today as boulevard Morland.

The building was built according to the plans of the architect Clément in 1878-1879 at the request of Laurent-Louis Borniche (1801-1883) a private individual. This former wood dealer, installed on the Louviers Island, was a great amateur of painting and wanted to construct a "popular museum" to present his collection of some 2000 paintings. After he died in 1883, his daughter sold most of its paintings and rented the building to the pasta society Rivoire & Carret. The building then became an alcohol sales counter and a restaurant before being bought by La Samaritaine in 1922. La Samaritaine installed its clothing workshops in the building from 1931 to 1954, when the City of Paris acquired the building to stock its archives.

After being rehabilitated by the architects Bernard Reichen and Philippe Robert, this characteristic building of the end of the 19th century architecture gets back to its prime function after the opening of the Pavillon de l'Arsenal in 1988.