i visited this squat eons ago when i first arrived in Paris...at that time, this old refridgeration building (owned by the SNCF train company) was located in the midst of ruined buildings and empty construction sites-to-be.
more than a decade later, the neighborhood is filled with chic new apartment buildings, the Very Big Library has been renamed for Mitterand, barges moored at the quai have become chic nightclubs, and I was worried the Frigos might have lost their anarchic appeal as they became an official artist residence. but paying rent hasn't changed the Frigos very much: the hallways are still covered in graffitti, the secret garden has grown into a great place for a glass of wine, and last weekend's open studios were a jolt of great art, terrible art, and a fabulous, chaotic sense of welcome.
the building itself was built in 1921; it contained a vast ice machine and was big enough to warehouse entire trains. huge pipes run through the Frigos, which once kept all kinds of food products chilled. but when Les Halles in central Paris was closed, the Frigos were no longer needed: food was shipped directly to Rungis, and the building was abandoned. then it waited...slowly crumbling and being walled-off...until the artists began to arrive in the 1980s.