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CITE UNIVERSITAIRE (Paris University Halls of Residence)

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    Getting there :two bus lines – no.88 arriving from avenue René Coty runs along the western side of Parc Montsouris as far as boulevard Jourdan while no.21 goes up the eastern side and follows the rue Gazan. Both RER ‘B’ (Cité Universitaire station) and Tramway 3 stop right in front of the main entrance. Allow roughly two hours on foot.The grounds are open to the public from 7 a.m until 10 p.m.



    Guiding principles

    After the blood-bath of the first world war, the Cité’s founders wanted to establish a location where students from all over the world could be housed and encouraged to mix thus helping to strengthen international relations and world peace. To accomplish this, the intake of each hall of residence was (and still is) to include a minimum of 30% of students from countries other than its own. So as to avoid any religious bias, there are no places of worship on the campus. There are, however, tennis courts, playing fields, indoor sporting facilities and a swimming pool. Other meeting places are the on-site theatre and restaurant. There are no classrooms.


    Situated on boulevard Jourdan on the site of the ramparts built by Thiers between 1840 and 1845 and which encircled Paris between what are today the “boulevards des Maréchaux” (named after Napoléon’s field-marshals) and the “boulevard Périphérique” (ring road).These ramparts proved useless and presented a danger (during the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 they had helped the enemy to besiege the city and then benefited the “Communards” in 1871). It was decided to demolish them in 1920. The land thus made available was given over to social housing and community projects such as schools, stadiums, churches, cemeteries and parks – and the Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris, called "Cité U". The choice of a location opposite the Parc Montsouris (fortresses 81,82 and 83) was all the more practiacl as a station on the “ligne de Sceaux” (now RER B) was opened in 1932 thus putting the Cité within easy reach of the Latin Quarter, the hub of university life in Paris.




    The entrance framed by a gateway is imposing and welcoming without being pompous. On either side are twin gatehouses in pseudo-Louis XIII style. The one on the left houses the administrative offices while the one on the right is the Honnorat hall of residence. Set further back is the Maison Internationale (financed by David Rockefeller in 1935) inspired by the palace at Fontainebleau. The east wing (on the left) houses the theatre and swimming pool and the west wing (on the right) is the Robert Garric hall of residence.





    The Halls

    There are 37 halls spread over 34 hectares (84 acres) of grounds some of which were swallowed up in the 50s when the ring road was being built. They can accommodate up to  5600 students and research staff as well as be used for hosting conferences. Four of them are listed historic buildings – the Fondation Deutsch de la Meurthe with its 7 pavilions, the Swiss, Brazilian and Dutch buildings.

    Like so much of the Cité (which would never have got underway without a very substantial donation from the Deutsch de la Meurthe family), most of the halls were largely if not wholly financed by benefactors. The first wave of building took place between 1925 and 1937 with another after the second world war – 1949 - 1969.

    The Cité has not been left unscathed by events. The Armenian hall was designed to alleviate the effects of the diaspora, the South East Asia hall was originally named after Indochina (at that time part of the French colonial empire). Germany and Italy only built theirs after the second world war. Neither Russia, China nor Central Europe are represented. The Cambodian hall was closed in 1973 due to political upheaval and only reopened in 2003. The Iranian hall was abandoned after the Islamic revolution and is now the Avicienna foundation and is managed by the Cité itself as is the Cuba building.


    Abreu de Grancher n°38 on the map

    Designed for Cuban students and opened in 1932. The architect was Albert Laprade who made a better job of the Musée des Colonies at the 1931 French Colonial Exhibition (now the Museum of Immigration) avenue Daumesnil. The main door has faint echoes of Spanish Baroque style.



    Armenia n°39

    Inaugurated in 1930. The architect Léon Nafylian (see also square Alboni and rue Raynouard under façades/other façades) was inspired by his home country’s religious architecture. The ornate animal frieze on the front is well worth seeing.





    South-East Asia n°40

    Indo-china (largely a French colony at the time) seen through the eyes of two French architects a year before the Colonial Exhibition of 1931. They were also to design the Great Britain hall of residence in a vaguely 16th century  British style.





    Avicenna n°29

    The last to be opened in 1969, this is the most ground-breaking of all the Cité buildings thanks to its highly original design: three 40m. high arches which form the framework of a somewhat off-beat suspended metallic structure. It’s a pity that all this is topped off by an illuminated hoarding aimed at drivers on the ring road (air-brushed out in the picture). It has now been re-named “Avicenne” after the Iranian philosopher and physician who was a link between eastern and western culture.




    Brazil n°2

    The second of Le Corbusier’s designs (1953) for the Cité (the first being the 1933 Swiss pavilion). Unfortunately, it foreshadows the  blocks which mushroomed in the Paris suburbs in the 60s and 70s and which are now abhorred.


    Cambodia n°23

    A striking contrast with the South East Asia hall. By the time it was opened (1957), France had left Indo-china thus making references to an exotic colonial style out-of-date. Nonetheless, there are hints of the Angkor Wat temples at ground level.



    Deutsch de la Meurthe n°31

    This is made up of six pavilions grouped around a central bell-tower. This was the first block to be built (1925) and evokes the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge. Its architect, Lucien Bechmann, later designed the two entrance pavilions with their colonnade, the “Maison Internationale” and, in 1950, the Victor Lyon hall.



    Greece n°35

    Opened in 1932. Designed by the Paris-trained architect Nicolas Zahos,it shows the influence of ancient Greek temples. A reminder that these were painted can be seen in the frieze which incorporates the names of illustrious Hellenes. The owl over the entrance was the symbol of Athena, goddess of wisdom.


    Italy n°9

    Sleek” describes the Italian pavilion as it combines all that is best in the Italian architectural tradition – unfussy and with elegant proportions.




    Japan n°11



    Lucien Paye n°32

    Originally intended for students from France’s overseas “possessions”, it was re-named Lucien Paye in 1972. It shares the same architect, Albert Laprade, as the  Abreu de Grancher and Morocco halls and is the only building in the Cité to have a copper roof.



    Morocco n°4

    Another Laprade design for a country where he had lived before the second world war. The main entrance on boulevard Jourdan, the glazed tiles (rare in Paris) and the courtyard are all of Moorish inspiration.


    Mexico n°18


    Netherlands n°41

    Designed in 1927 by Willem Dudok (who contributed to De Stijl alongside Mondrian and Van Doesburg) and started in1929 but was not completed until 1938 on account of the depression. Its severity of line and volume can best be appreciated from outside the Cité with the Porte d’Orléans behind you.





    French Provinces n°37

    With its 320 bedrooms, this is the largest building on the campus and was designed by Armand Guéritte who had already been responsible for the Belgian hall.



    Scandinavia n°8, 5 and 10

    Despite being built at different times, the three halls (Denmark n°8, Norway n°5 and Sweden n°10) are close together and each hints at traditional Scandinavian styles. The blue of the shutters is that of the Swedish flag and coat of arms.


    Switzerland n°7

    One of the most famous and successful buildings here, it’s architect was Le Corbusier who studiously ignored any reference to Swiss folklore.



    The “Professional” houses n°13, 6 and 30

    Three pavilions are linked to professions and not countries. Farming at Institut National Agronomique (n°13) a superb, recently renovated, art deco building; Agro-Business at maison des Industries Agro-alimentaires (n°6), elegantly simple (1956) and Engineering at maison des élèves-ingénieurs des Arts et Métiers (n°30) which has two buildings the first of which dates from 1950 and the second, on the other side of the ring road, from 1961. A walkway over the ring road links the two and the use of identical materials ensures continuity.






    Other halls

    Germany (n°26) , Argentina (n°25) designed by three architects (two Argentine and one French)) in the style of an “estancia” in the Pampas, Belgium and Luxembourg (n°16), Canada (n°28) and Spain (n°12) which is approached through a selection of bronzes from the Reina Sofia museum in Madrid.



    United-States (n°19), Great Britain (n°15 ”Tudorbethan” style by the same architect as S-E Asia), India (n°3) which is a rather dull affair, Lebanon (n°17) with one Mondrian-like pavilion, Monaco (n°36 very conventional but not lacking in elegance),Portugal (n°1 residence André de Gouveia, a 16th century Portuguese humanist who was also Rector of the Sorbonne) with a particularly original entrance, Tunisia (n°34) by far the least interesting of all the houses and, lastly, Victor Lyon (n°27).





    Other buildings

    Called "espace ouest" (n°33) and "espace sud" (n°14), they were built in 1930 and 1966 as restaurants, the former by Albert Laprade. Today they are used as in-door sport facilities.




    And to round off your tour

    See Itineraries / around parc de Montsouris

    See also the Cité’s website:                                                                                                                                                                      next page>