Parisian Samaritaine: culture follows innovation

A newly faced Parisian department store La Samaritaine opened on June 21, 2021, with the restoration of historical architectural elements and interior decoration in the Art Nouveau and Art Deco style and a modern extension designed by Sanaa's architects.

The Samaritaine store, Paris, 2021, photo: LVMH
The department store owner and the head of the multinational luxury goods corporation LVMH, Mr. Bernard Arnault, and the President of France officially opened La Samaritaine after more than a decade of reconstruction. The history of La Samaritaine began when the founder of the original La Samaritaine store, Mr. Ernest Cognac, with his wife Marie-Louise Jay, moved to this iconic place on the banks of the Seine in the 1870s. He immediately recognized the significance of this location, which he later complemented with an equally iconic and status building. The pair started with a shop at the corner of Rue de la Monnaie and Rue du Pont-Neuf and gradually extended their business to neighboring shops. The founders of La Samaritaine store had excellent taste and welcomed innovative solutions in the architecture of the early XX century. In 1910, an Art Nouveau building designed by famous and influential Art Nouveau french architect Franz Jourdain opened its doors. Large and spacious, it seemed even more exquisite thanks to the enormous glass windows and elegant metal construction, and most importantly, the vast amount of natural light flooding the building. 

The Samaritaine store, Paris, 2021, photo: LVMH
In 1928, the Art Deco building designed by Henri Sauvage complemented the historical ensemble. Thus, the department store became an example of two romantic styles - Art Nouveau and Art Deco. The building got its name "La Samaritaine" -" Samaritan," thanks to the first hydro-pump of Paris that existed here from 1608 to 1813, which supplied water to the Tuileries gardens. The sculptures of Christ and the Samaritan woman at the facade of the building reference the gospel story of their meeting at the Jacob's Well when Christ explained to the Samaritan woman the meaning of alive water.

The Samaritaine store, Paris, 2021, photo: LVMH

The main architectural attraction of the building is a glass dome with a supporting metal structure that required meticulous restoration. The original design of the cupola, completed in 1907, belongs to Franz Jourdain. During the long history of the building, the rectangular dome measuring 37 by 20 m was modified several times and even hidden for some periods. Still, as a result of the newest restoration, it was returned to its original shape and colors chosen by Jourdain himself. The only tribute to modern technologies is electrochromic glass, which changes its hue depending on the intensity of natural light.

The Samaritaine store, Paris, 2021, photo: LVMH
A mural with a peacock 3.5 meters high and 115 meters long, one of the masterpieces of Art Nouveau, encircles the glass dome inside the building. The wall painting with an area of 452 sq m, the creation of Francis Jourdain, the son of Franz Jourdain, was restored and regained its former colors and shine.

The Samaritaine store, Paris, 2021, photo: LVMH
Famous Japanese architects of the Sanaa agency, winners of the most prestigious international architectural Pritzker Prize in 2010, designed the modern part of the building on the side of Rivoli Street. The elegantly executed facade made of transparent glass has an irregular wavy shape, simultaneously refined and bright. A total of 343 screen-printed glass panels measuring 2.7 by 3.5 meters and weighing from 600 to 1250 kg are perfectly balanced and give the impression of weightlessness.

samaritaine 6 Facade Sanaa rue de Rivoli Takashi Homma 5
Another symbol of the golden era of the early XX century and the iconic La Samaritaine building is the grand staircase. The legendary staircase, both an aesthetic and a functional element of the interior, has been restored with special care. Sixteen thousand gold leaves, Art Nouveau ceramics under the stairwells, and 270 original oak steps feature the updated railing and balustrade.

samaritaine 4 DFS SAMARITAINE 0134 Panorama 5

The Samaritaine store, Paris, 2021, photo: LVMH

The Samaritaine store, Paris, 2021, photo: LVMH

The Samaritaine store, Paris, 2021, photo: LVMH

Yury Gryazin

Deputy Editor-in-chief

Dr. Yury Gryazin is a full professor at Idaho State University, USA. He has a Ph.D. degree in Applied Mathematics. Dr. Gryazin's research interests lie in the area of new technologies in contemporary product & industrial design and architecture. He is also interestied in creating innovative analytical methods in fine arts.