In 1900 Hector Guimard designed the first of many decorative Metro station entrances. Since then they have come to symbolize not only the Paris Metro but Paris itself. In another article we described Guimard's top Metro station designs, but now let's delve deeper into the world of Hector Guimard for the complete Insider's guide to all of his remaining, and inspirational, Metro stations.
Paris wasn't the first city to have an underground system, that was London, but the 1900 Paris Exposition was a reason to show the world that Paris, too, could build an efficient mode of mass transportation. In 1898 the Compagnie du Métropolitain launched a competition for the design of Metro entrance gates. Guimard didn't actually enter the competition but he was awarded the commission nonetheless due to his avant-garde schemes using inexpensive cast-iron elements.
Each of Guimard's (1867-1942) cast iron entrances display the word Métropolitain along with the station's name. Unbelievably, many of his station entrances were subsequently destroyed, right up until the 1960s. Fortunately for us, at least half have been saved and can still be admired at sixty-seven Metro stations.
The style he employed, called Art Nouveau (as seen in the photo below of the former Metro station at Étoile), emerged around the end of the nineteenth century, during the period called La Belle Époque, the result of a quest for an aesthetic based on organic, fluid lines inspired by nature. At first Parisians were skeptical of Guimard's style, but once his Metro stations were installed, Art Nouveau was embraced as the look of the Belle Époque.
Metro Étoile, since destroyed
Guimard's genius didn't stop at Metro stations. He was a prolific designer and brought Art Nouveau sensibility to houses, furniture, and many objets like umbrella stands, vases, picture frames, door handles, trays, letter seals & openers, and jewelry.
Current art historians can't heap enough praise on Guimard's Art Nouveau Metro stations, but when he died in New York City at the age of 75 the French architect's body of work had fallen into obscurity. His contribution to Paris had been long forgotten by 1938 when he and his Jewish wife Adeleine left their native France to escape the toxic tide of antisemitism.
Today Guimard's Metro station entrances can be seen across Paris. Some of them have been relocated from their original locations, like the one at Porte-Dauphine in the 16th. (In fact, there's one at Square-Victoria station in Montreal, Quebec.) Here is a complete list of Hector's extant Metro station entrances in Paris. Can you find the arrondissement that has the most examples? Or the one arrondissement that doesn't have (or share) one of Guimard's gateways?
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Guimard's Metro entrances can be found at stations Chatelet, Etienne-Marcel, Palais-Royal–Musée-du-Louvre (photo), Louvre-Rivoli.
Station Etienne Marcel, on line 4, opened in April 1908, named for the 14th-century revolutionary and provost (leader) of small merchants and guildsmen under French king Jean II. There's a statue of Etienne Marcel at the Hotel de Ville. By the way, the current Chatelet entrance is a modern replica.
Guimard's Metro entrances can be found at stations Quatre-Septembre, Reaumur-Sebastopol, and Sentier.
Quatre-Septembre, on Metro line 3 is named for an important date in French history. On September 4, 1870, Napoleon III's defeat was finalized and the Third French Republic was proclaimed. This Metro station opened in October 1904, providing service between Avenue de Villiers and Pere Lachaise.
One Metro entrance, at Temple station, in the Marais.
Also on line 3, Temple is named for a long-demolished Templar fortification that once stood in the Square du Temple in the Marais. The Templar's building gave its name to the Rue du Temple, which gave its name to the Metro station.
Deep underneath Île de la Cité (one of the two islands of Paris) is Metro Cité. The only Metro station on the island opened in December 1910; although tunnels once linked the station to the nearby Prefecture of Police of Paris and the Palais de Justice, they were closed for security reasons so that now the only exit is on Rue de Lutèce, in front of the Prefecture of Police.
Saint-Michel–Notre-Dame. (That's one station.)
Saint-Michel–Notre-Dame, on line 4, in the Latin Quarter, also connects to RER lines B and C (underground). While you're viewing Guimard's entrance (on the west side of Place Saint-Michel), be sure to check out the famous Fontaine Saint-Michel by Gabriel Davioud, just around the corner.
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Two stations: Europe and Saint-Lazare
Europe opened in October 1904 and is named after the Place de l'Europe, the square from which streets named for European capitals radiate. This was also the site of the first Paris railway station, Embarcadère de l'Ouest, which opened in 1837.
Two stations: Cadet and Opera (photo, corner of Rue Auber and Rue Scribe, kitty-corner from the Nespresso store)
Cadet, on line 7 is named after a wealthy landowner, Monsieur Cadet de Chambine, who just happened to own the land where the street and Metro station is now located.
The 10th boasts five Guimard entrances: Chateau-d'Eau, Colonel-Fabien, Gare du Nord, Louis-Blanc, République
République serves lines 3, 5, 8, 9, and 11 and is named after the Place de la République, which commemorates the First, Second, and Third French Republics. The Metro station is found directly underneath the place.
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A grand total of seven! Breguet-Sabin, Couronnes, Menilmontant, Parmentier, Pere-Lachaise, Richard-Lenoir, Rue-Saint-Maur
Parmentier on line 3 opened in October 1904 and is named after Antoine-Augustin Parmentier. He's the man who convinced the world that potatoes weren't poisonous and could be used as a food source for humans. Frites, anyone? Station Pere-Lachaise serves, of course, Pere Lachaise cemetery.
Bastille, Daumesnil, Gare-de-Lyon, Nation, Picpus
Daumesnil, serving lines 6 and 8, honors General Pierre Yrieix Daumesnil (1776-1832), one of Napoleon's star soldiers.
Campo-Formio, Place-d'Italie, Saint-Marcel
Saint-Marcel on line 5, serving the University Hospital, is named for a 5th-century bishop of Paris
Denfert-Rochereau, Mouton-Duvernet, Raspail
Raspail on lines 4 and 6 is named for the 19th-century scientist and politician François-Vincent Raspail (1794-1878). Born in Carpentras in Provence, he was one of the founders of the cell theory in biology. The longest boulevard in Paris, Boulevard Raspail, is also named in his honor.
Opened in April 1906, the Pasteur station honors Louis Pasteur (1822-1895). The renowned French microbiologist and chemist discovered the principles of vaccination and pasteurization and created the first vaccines for rabies and anthrax.
Boissiere, Chardon-Lagache, Eglise-d'Auteuil, Kleber, Mirabeau, Porte-d'Auteuil, Porte-Dauphine (photo), Victor-Hugo
Named for the famous author, the Victor Hugo station (line 2) got a temporary name change in July 2018, when the French national soccer team won the World Cup. The station, located in the 16th Arrondissement was for a short time called Victor Hugo Lloris for the team's captain and goalkeeper, Hugo Lloris.
Monceau, Rome, Ternes, Villiers, Wagram
Monceau on Line 2 is near Parc Monceau on the border of the 8th and 17th Arrondissements. Both the station and the park get their name from the former village of Monceau, annexed by Paris in 1860 as part of the expansion of Paris.
Metro Abbesses (Montmartre)
Six Guimard entrances can be found in this arrondissement. Abbesses, Anvers, Barbes-Rochechouart, Blanche, Pigalle, Place-de-Clichy
What happens when you marry French Republican revolutionary Armand Barbès (1809-1870) to the scholarly French nun Marguerite de Rochechouart, (1665-1727)? Metro station Barbes-Rochechouart is born. Situated on Paris Metro lines 2 and Line 4, it's where the 9th, 10th, and 18th Arrondissements converge.
Bolivar, Botzaris, Crimee, Jaures, Pre-Saint-Gervais
Simon Bolivar (1783-1830) was a hero of South American independence. We're sure he would be saddened to know the history of the Metro station bearing his name on line 7B. During World War I the station was converted into an air raid shelter. As people rushed to the shelter during a bombing on March 11, 1918 panic ensued when the doors jammed. Seventy-six people died in the resulting rush of bodies.
Alexandre-Dumas, Avron, Gambetta, Philippe-Auguste (photo)
You say you want a revolution? Philippe-Auguste on line 2 is the only Paris Metro station named for French royalty, Philip II of France, 1165-1223, known as Philippe Auguste. (Learn about the city wall he built.)
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