the new Citroen showcase officially opens tomorrow, but I got a sneak preview yesterday. If you were walking down the Champs last night, you probably noticed the fleet of Citroens and the spotlights. The building is on the same site that Andre Citroen bought back in 1927; in more recent memory, the showroom was also a Hippo restaurant. No loss, tearing that thing down.
For the past three years, while the construction site was under wraps, I've been wondering about the origami-inspired facade, trying to figure out if the building was going to be a success or not. And now? Well...I'm still deciding. I love the architect: Manuelle Gautrand's buildings are smart and quirky, and she deserves kudos for getting this "C42" built at all--construction was a logistical nightmare. They could only deliver structural elements between 1am and 6am, couldn't block traffic at any time, were building right beside a metro entrance...and the site doesn't have access to a back alley, so everything had to be done from the sidewalk of the most prestigious street in all of Paris. Amazing it ever got finished.
The pleated, multi-faceted draped glass facade she has created is appropriate in all sorts of ways--referencing the original glass vitrine building of the 1920s and 30s, taking the logo (that double chevron of Citroen) and abstracting it upwards, and playing with the idea of glass and movement--the way you glimpse different angles of the world as you're driving fast through city streets. But inside, the main body of the building bores me. It's very white, very red, with some reflective elements to show off the cars...it feels like the set for a gameshow.
The only interior part that delighted me was the very top floor. This is where C42 comes into its own: the kaleidescope effect of the facade (which extends right over the roof and down the back of the building), the feeling of light and freedom suspended above the busy Champs...superb. Worth visiting. But I'm not sure it's an enduring addition to the Champs. I'm going to have to go back and stare at it some more.