The 14th arrondissement is the ideal place to explore the different periods of architectural creativity that have swept through Paris.
From modernism to modernity, from an astonishing attempt to the most successful of endeavors, everything has been dared, everything has been considered in this charming, surprising district.
From Port Royal to Montparnasse through the very heart of the district, we’ll take you on adventure. Keep your eyes wide open, your vision skyward, and your camera ready to go!
1 / Rue Cassini
The first stop on our architectural tour is rue Cassini. We recommend that you start your journey at the Port Royal RER station. Admire this small station built in 1895, as it is the first intramuros station placed on top of the tracks, due to lack of space. In front of you, in the distance, it is the Observatory... that observes you!
Let’s go on an architecture walk! We’ll take you to the nearby rue Cassini.
Number 3bis and 5
Why start at the rue Cassini? Because it is home to fascinating architecture. Take a look at the numbers 3bis and 5. These are private mansions with artist studios in yellow brick for one, red for the other, designed in a style inspired by the Middle Ages. Both were created by architect Louis Süe, between 1903 and 1906.
Dating back to 1930, the star of rue Cassini is number 12, a set of artists’ studios designed by Charles Abella. Neither Art Deco nor cubist, this concrete building was crafted in several blocks. Admire the beautiful harmony of the wooden shutters, take a look at the bas-relief frieze by Xavier Haas. Note also that that Resistance hero Jean Moulin lived in this building.
Rue Cassini, Paris 14th
2 / The Fondation Cartier and its gardens
Here we are, on boulevard Raspail, in front of the Fondation Cartier! Don’t hestitate to enter, as it is a museum space with fascinating temporary exhibitions. However, architecture is our focus today. The Fondation Cartier was designed by none other than French architect Jean Nouvel, a superstar in his own right.
Of his creation built in 1994, the architect has said, "This building belongs to the wind and rain. It is spun of ambiguities, playing on the limits of its own outlines and reflecting its own reflections." Have a look at the building and you’ll realize that his statement is poetic and fitting given the way that light plays with structure. Nouvel wanted his "monument for Paris" to be open, transparent and ever evolving. Free, open and changing with the weather and the seasons, the Fondation Cartier plays on the proposals of artists who exhibit in the space.
Stroll through the gardens, photograph, discover the works that dot them, enjoy Jean Nouvel's architectural offering!
And if you want to dig deeper and learn more, know that the Cartier Foundation regularly organizes "architectural tours".
The Garden of the Fondation Cartier - 261 boulevard Raspail, Paris 14th
More info on the Fondation Cartier
3 / Camondo and the Ecole Spéciale d’Architecture
Did the Cartier Foundation dazzle you? Turn your head. Ahead, a strange post-modern building is staring at you. This is the building of the Camondo School, which also houses the Special School of Architecture (ESA)! One school trains designers and interior designers, and the other architects.
Designed in 1988 by architects Cuno Brullmann and Arnaud Fougeras-Lavergnolle, this building was intended to be "high-tech". With its apparent metallic structure and its glazed facades highlighted in bright colors, Camondo detonates and dynamizes the traditional Parisian aesthetic.
Architects in the making must find lots of inspiration in this neighborhood!
Good to know: Former alumni of the Camondo include Pierre Paulin, Philippe Starck, Jean-Michel Wilmotte. The ESA is also known for training no less than Robert Mallet-Stevens!
Ecole Camondo / Ecole Spéciale d’Architecture - 254 boulevard Raspail, Paris 14th
4 / The Ledoux pavilions and the Musée de la Libération de Paris / Musée du Général Leclerc/ Musée Jean Moulin
The Musée de la Libération de Paris used to reside above Montparnasse train station. It will open on August 27, 2019 on Place Denfert-Rochereau, located in the Ledoux Pavilions that punctuate the square.
The History of the Pavillions
Built in 1787 by the architect Claude-Nicolas Ledoux, the "Pavillons Ledoux" are actually a remnant of the doors of the “Fermiers Généraux” wall that surrounded Paris. The function of these gates was to collect the “Octroi”, a the tax on the entry of goods into the capital. For the record, Ledoux has crafted many other “doors”, including Belleville, Montreuil, Montmartre, Charenton, Ménilmontant, Reuilly, and the Ecole militaire. Each one revisits classic style with columns, pediments and arcades.
The Future of the Pavillions
Entirely renovated, redesigned and rehabilitated, these pavilions will house the entrance to the Paris Catacombs in the east and the new Museum in the west starting on August 27th, 2019, a date that commemorates the 75th anniversary of Paris’ liberation from the Nazi regime.
Good to know: For the record, Ledoux has crafted many other “doors”, including Belleville, Montreuil, Montmartre, Charenton, Ménilmontant, Reuilly, and the Ecole militaire. Each one revisits classic style with columns, pediments and arcades.
Pavillons Ledoux / Musée de la Libération de Paris - place Denfert-Rochereau, Paris 14th
More info on the Musée de la Libération de Paris
5 / The 14th Arrondissement’s Town Hall annex is a well-preserved art deco masterpiece and historical monument
The Town Hall annex in the 14th arrondissment is in great shape! Dressed in brick, it is a perfect testament to the cubic style of the 1930s. Impressive, almost martial, massive, this building designed by architect G. F. Sébille, a specialist in municipal buildings, reflects the complexity of the troubled period between the two world wars. Take the time to admire the Raymond Subes’ gates on the door. But don't stay outside!
The interior decoration is also impressive, including the marble hall and staircase, stained glass windows, and not to mention the bas-reliefs by Raymond Delamarre. Don't miss the hall upstairs with its magnificent stained-glass window by Louis Barillet and its mural frescoes from the interwar period.
Good to know: note that very interesting free exhibitions are often offered.
Town Hall annex - 26 rue Mouton-Duvernet, Paris 14th
Time for a break
Looking for a break after lots of walking and photographing? Treat yourself to a gourmet stopover at Les Pipelettes or Aux Plumes, just next to town hall. If you’re not tempted by these options, you’ll find something to please between Boulard and Mouton-Duvernet streets. If you're not hungry and don't want a coffee, and just want to feel the spirit of the neighborhood, take a break on a bench in Aspirant Dunand's pretty square.
If you pass by rue Boulard, don't forget to take a look at the pre-school of the same name, it is the work of Marion Tournon Branly, one of the few female architects of her time.
Les Pipelettes - 29/31 rue Brézin, Paris 14th
Aux Plumes - 45 rue Boulard, Paris 14th
6 / Villa Seurat
Named in homage to the painter Georges Seurat, this private road was built at the beginning of the 20th century for the broke artists of Montparnasse, the Montparnos (discover our walk "Montparnasse and its artists"). The architect André Lurçat was in charge of building no less than 8 villas, of splendid homogeneity, in the Villa Seurat. 8 buildings were tailor made (or almost) for artists in need of workshops. From Chaïm Soutine to Salvador Dali, from Henry Miller to André Derain, many painters and writers have unpacked their suitcases at Villa Seurat and enjoyed the bucolic calm so essential for artistic creation.
- number 1: at the corner of rue de La Tombe-Issoire, you’ll find writer Frank Townshend’s double house. It’s literally a double house, as it is really composed of two house, each equipped with its own kitchen, bathroom, workshop, living room and bedroom.
- number 4: this L-shaped house, owned by André Lurçat’s brother, the painter, ceramist and upholsterer Jean Lurçat, was the first house built in the Villa.
- number 7bis: this house is quite different from the others. And for good reason, it was built by Auguste Perret (and not André Lurçat) for the Ukrainian sculptor Chana Orloff who had her studio there. Today, it can be visited every Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoon, on reservation. You can also admire one of her statues, “Mon Fils Marin”, inaugurated for the artist's 100th birthday in 2018 on the Place des Droits de l'Enfant at the intersection of Alésia-Tombe Issoire and Sarrette streets.
- number 18: it was in this brick house that the American writer Henry Miller wrote his famous "Tropic of Cancer". Anaïs Nin, Soutine or Antonin Artaud also stayed here.
Did you know? Before being subdivided, the land that gave rise to the Villa Seurat was occupied by sheds and... stables!Cette petite voie privée baptisée ainsi en hommage au peintre Georges Seurat, réalisée par André Lurçat. Il y a construit 8 villas parfaitement homogènes destinées aux artistes en mal d’atelier, parmi lesquels Chaïm Soutine, Salvador Dali, Henry Miller, André Derain.
Villa Seurat, Paris 14th
7 / Rue du Moulin Vert
We continue our architectural walk up the small Rue du Moulin Vert.
At number 7, don't miss the mosaic dragon that adorns the facade of this 1930s brick building. At number 23, you will notice an amazing narrow building from the 1930s with its 3 workshops and their glass roofs.
Rue du Moulin Vert, Paris 14th
8 / Villa d’Alésia
Art Deco and Art Nouveau facades, architects' houses and artists' or craftsmen's studios: welcome to the splendid Villa d'Alésia, or the open-air architecture museum (living museum, however, these houses are inhabited, remember to respect the privacy of their occupants).
With its strange Y-shape, Villa d'Alésia is an architectural jewel, follow the guide:
Number 37bis / Brick... and canopies: in front, above, everywhere! You are in front of the former studio of painter Henri Matisse. Today, it is home to L'atelier Terre & Feu, an art school.
Number 43 / With its green-framed wide windows, No. 43 is now a photography studio
It is also in this street that we find the beautiful house of the painter Auguste Leroux, and the large glass roof of the animal sculptor Sandoz.
Villa d'Alésia, Paris 14th
The Villa is accessible by 111 ter rue d'Alésia and 39 rue des Plantes
9 / Rue Louis Morard
Did you enjoy the workshops at Villa Alésia? You're going to love the bow-windows on Louis Morard Street!
From number 9 to number 19, you’ll find a succession of bow-windows of all kinds and styles. Ity’s an amazing and magical little piece of Paris you will undoubtedly enjoy photographing! Vous avez aimé les ateliers de la Villa Alésia ? Vous allez adorer les bow-windows de la rue Louis Morard !
Rue Louis Morard, Paris 14th
Time for a break
The Châtillon Garden (whose official name is Lionel-Assouad Garden) is a pretty typical Parisian square. With its large lawn and shaded paths, it is perfect for resting.
Jardin Lionel-Assouad - 18 rue de Châtillon, Paris 14th
10 / « Les Grandes Bouches » (The « Big Mouths »)
Rest assured, these two towers in the Plaisance district are not really called the “Big Mouths”, that’s just what the nearby inhabitants have nicknamed them. But if you have a look at their balconies, you will easily understand how they got their moniker!
Designed by architect Jean Balladur, in collaboration with Jean-Bernard Tostivint, between 1968 and 1970, the towers are typical of the "high rise public housing" of the period. Jean Balladur's most famous work is the seaside resort of La Grande Motte, in the Hérault.
« The Big Mouths » - 28 rue Decrès, 139 rue de l’Ouest and 178 rue d’Alésia, Paris 14th
11 / Notre-Dame du Travail Church
Have you ever visited a church with a steel structure? No? Then discover the beautiful and very surprising Notre-Dame du Travail church, on the edge of the railway tracks of the Montparnasse train station.
From the outside, there is nothing to predict what awaits you as you walk through the doors of this church, designed by and for "the people". What will amaze you from the moment you enter is its amazing and incredible exposed steel structure, totally unexpected in a religious building.
Erected thanks to a call for tender in 1900, the same year of the great Universal Exhibition that bequeathed so much to Paris, this church was designed for the workers around it. This astonishing steel structure is a testament to both the budgetary constraints that governed construction and the modernist spirit of the time. The 135 tonnes of iron used to complete the church were sourced from the ruins of the Palais de l'Industrie built for the Universal Exhibition. Above all, the church was intended to help the workers who worshipped there to feel “at home” given its turn of the century factory feel.
Notre-Dame du Travail Church - 59 rue Vercingétorix, Paris 14th
12 / Catalogne square & Ricardo Bofill
The squares of Catalogne, Séoul and the Amphithéâtre are at the heart of recent Parisian architectural temples.
Built in 1985, the Place de Catalogne and its two surrounding squares, Place de Séoul and Place de l’Amphithéâtre, are the work of the Catalan architect Ricardo Bofill. While the Place de Catalogue with its emblematic fountain, a black inclined plane designed by Shamai Haber, is open to traffic, the other two squares are pedestrian and contain green spaces.
If you walk through Place de Séoul, you find yourself in the centre of a French boxwood garden, surrounded by a vast elliptical glass building that Bofill has named "Les Echelles du Baroque, which is both low-income housing as well as a real architectural work.
In this micro-district, you may have the strange feeling of being in a science fiction movie or in the heart of an intergalactic peplum, between classic colonnades and absolute modernity.
To learn more about Ricardo Bofill's work
Place de Catalogne, Paris 14th
13 / The Jardin Atlantique & Maine Montparnasse II building
Located on either side of the Jardin Atlantique, a small wonder of technology and greenery hidden on the roof of the Montparnasse station since 1994, the Maine-Montparnasse I and Maine-Montparnasse II buildings are two housing units that predate the garden since they were built between 1959 and 1966 by the architect Jean Dubuisson.
From an architectural point of view, "Maine Montparnasse II" is of particular interest. Nicknamed "Mouchotte" by its inhabitants, it contains over 88,000 m2 spread over 18 floors, making it is the largest residential building in Paris.
In "Mouchotte", the façades are non-load bearing, fully glazed, which allows abundant light to enter the apartments. Voluntarily smooth, these facades with their weft shape made of aluminium elements evoke a canvas by Piet Mondrian, or the grid pattern of Scottish fabrics.
Influenced by the Bauhaus and Scandinavian architecture, Jean Dubuisson has made this building his most famous signature. Moreover, Maine-Montparnasse II has been awarded the label "Heritage of the 20th century".
Feel free to get lost on the hidden lawns of the Jardin Atlantique, in the hypnotic contemplation of the Mouchotte grid. We guarantee you a moment a little out of time.
Jardin Atlantique, access by the 1 place des 5 Martyrs du Lycée Buffon - Paris 15 or by the 4 rue du Commandant Mouchotte - Paris 14 or directly by the stairs near tracks 1 and 2 in the Montparnasse train station
More info on the Jardin Atlantique
14 / Montparnasse tower
Where do you have the most beautiful view of Paris? If you ask Parisians, they will jokingly say at the top of Montparnasse tower, since you can’t see it! When it was inaugurated on June 18th, 1973, Montparnasse was the tallest in Western Europe at 210 m high and 58 floors.
The tower is currently undergoing renovation work abandoning its dark clothes to display a translucent facade by 2023. The project is being carried out in conjunction with the entire Gaîté-Montparnasse district.
To learn more about the Tour Montparnasse, its history and future, discover the site dedicated to it: https://www.tour-montparnasse.fr/en/
Want to learn more with a guided tour ?
If you would like to discover the history and hustle and bustle of the Montparnasse district in greater depth, which has so often been the subject of ambitious renovations and architectural creations, why not book a guided tour with Explore Paris? From Notre Dame du Travail church to Place de Catalogne to Montparnasse tower, take 2 hours to learn and understand everything!
Tour Montparnasse - 33 avenue du Maine, Paris 15th
More info on the Montparnasse tower