Hotel de la Marine, the triumph of culture over profitability?
With its unequaled view on the Tuileries gardens, the Eiffel Tower, the Madeleine and the Assemblée Nationale (French Parliament), the Place de la Concorde is often dubbed as the most beautiful square in the world. Yet, it has recently been at the center of a huge controversy that is soon to be settled by the French President himself.
The Defense Ministry, currently housed in the Hotel de la Marine , is indeed going to move to a more suburban location within a few months, leaving the building uninhabited and open to all kinds of speculations. Some private investors have in mind a very ambitious renovation of the building that would turn it into a huge shopping mall or an elegant hotel with a swimming pool, a spa and art galleries. Though chic and prestigious, the project has however raised a massive outcry from Parisians who see it as a loss of prestige for the State which has been accused of opportunism. After the project was unveiled, talks of cultural decline have spread out everywhere, causing Parisians to debate passionately over it for months.
The question should be settled soon as former President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing,who is overseeing the various projects, submitted his conclusions to President Nicolas Sarkozy in late September. He strongly recommends that the Hotel de la Marine remains in the public domain and that the building be actually turned into a new exhibition hall for the neighboring Louvre museum. The project is receiving massive support from Parisians. Pieces of art currently stored in the museum storage rooms would be on display and visitors would have access to the terrace which offers one of the best, if not the best, views on the Concorde Place. The latest surveys show that Parisians overwhelmingly support this recommandation on the ground that it would put the building to better use. The final outcome should be unveiled soon…