Photo: Pierre-Olivier Deschamps for La Samaritaine
This year marks two big milestones for La Samaritaine: the 150th anniversary of the Parisian retail center’s 1870 establishment and the end of a 15-year renovation project that culminates with the famed department store reopening this month.
The redesign of the newly coined La Samaritaine Paris Pont-Neuf, led by the luxury goods purveyor LVMH Group, has been a massive undertaking involving 280 French companies and the Japanese architectural firm SANAA, with a price tag exceeding $800 million. The block-long complex now houses a store that offers more than 600 fashion brands and the most extensive beauty and wellness zone in Paris; a food court with 10 restaurants, cafés, and tearooms; and the five-star Cheval Blanc Paris hotel, which has 26 rooms and 46 suites and a Dior spa (not to mention 96 units of public housing and a day care center).
What’s more notable than the new offerings, however, is the care that has gone into restoring to its former glory this architectural jewel, which is renowned for its Art Nouveau and Art Deco details, including a stunning 1907 glass roof and a four-wall peacock fresco. Historical monuments architect Jean-François Lagneau, who also recently renovated the reading room at the National Library of France, brought in artisans to spruce up heritage details such as the mosaic “Samaritaine” sign, the ceramic letters atop the building’s windows, and the gold leaf–painted mosaic tiles on the ground-floor pillars.
While safeguarding the past was paramount, the project also looks to the future, with modern additions including a SANAA-designed rippling-glass facade. Such updates are in line with an ethos that has long defined the building. “You see in this undulating facade the building on the other side, reflected,” says chairman and CEO Jean-Jacques Guiony. “When you walk through, you see them move.” It’s a fitting design tribute for a store that continues to blaze forward.