Openings France

Ile Seguin plans revealed

Seine island may finally be developed

Jean Nouvel's vision

PARIS. When, in 1999, the architect Jean Nouvel imagined the future of the Ile Seguin, the island in the Seine in the west of Paris, he wrote in the opinion pages of Le Monde: “Picture… a small town right in the centre of the city of Paris. Picture massive walls overhanging the Seine—restaurants, schools, shops, offices, homes.” That was then. Now, more than ten years later, and after numerous delays and u-turns by various administrations, a public/private partnership including officials from the Boulogne-Billancourt local council has presented specific plans for the island’s development as envisioned by Nouvel. “It was a long time coming, lots of talk, but not much action,” Patrick Devedjian, chair of the Hauts de Seine regional council, said. “But now work is getting under way.”

The architect’s dolphin-shaped design is “moored” to the banks of the Seine by four bridges. Nouvel said: “The island should be another Ile de la Cité, a neighbourhood that is equally vibrant by day and by night.” The “visual arts portal” would cover an area of some 20,000 sq.m with galleries and artists’ studios.

There are rumours that the Swiss fine art shipping company Natural Le Coultre will fund a bonded warehouse. However speculation that the development might provide new homes for the Cartier Foundation and the Renault Collection has prompted cautious responses.

“Absolutely nothing has been decided,” said Ann Hindry, the curator of the Renault Collection. “Even if the collection were to be on the Ile Seguin, it would not be its ultimate stopping place. And there is simply no question of donating the collection to the city or to the region. That is non-negotiable.” A succinct statement from the Cartier Foundation offered little more than: “At the moment, no move is planned.”

The island has been the source of much speculation since the closure of the Renault plant in 1992. Some wanted to see a memorial to the historic car factory, a site of much industrial unrest, most notably in the political ferment of May 1968. Billionaire François Pinault originally planned to build his private museum there in 2000, but after years of negotiations with the authorities, gave up and decamped to Venice in 2005. In the same year former prime minister Dominique de Villepin proposed a European Contemporary Design Centre. This was superseded by an uninspired proposal for a sculpture park. Now, however, there appears to be some real progress in the island’s development, although construction is not expected to begin until the first half of 2013.

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