Signs of the city’s industrial past are to be found all over Greater Paris. In some cases, the buildings are so much a part of the landscape that their original purpose is forgotten. La Villette, for example, before it became a centre for the arts, was the site of the city’s old slaughterhouses. The large cattle market hall still remains from this period, now the Grande Halle de la Villette, which is used as a venue for major events in the Paris area.
From Nanterre through Montreuil and Ivry-sur-Seine to Pantin, a large number of disused factories, workshops and other industrial sites have been given a new lease of life.
Some of these sites have been redeveloped by the private sector, taking care to preserve the uniqueness of the existing architecture. This is the case with the Grands Moulins de Pantin, a former flour mill which today houses a banking organisation, and Les Magasins Généraux, a former warehouse also in Pantin, now occupied by an advertising agency.
In Aubervilliers and Saint-Denis, Les Entrepôts et Magasins Généraux de Paris, a huge 70-hectare warehouse complex used for storing non-perishable foodstuffs, now houses television studios and textile firms. Also in Saint-Denis is Luc Besson’s Cité du Cinéma, which was once a power station.
And in the south, Station F, the “world’s biggest business incubator” created by Xavier Niel, has set up in the Halle Freyssinet, a railway building erected in the 1920s.
More info about the industrial heritage in Seine-Saint-Denis
A number of leading art galleries have also chosen to take over former industrial buildings away from the city centre to make the most of the larger spaces available. Two such are Thaddaeus Ropac which shows large paintings in a nineteenth-century boilerworks in Pantin, and Larry Gagosian which opted for a former warehouse at Le Bourget Airport which was redesigned by Jean Nouvel.
This wave of repurposing projects has given rise to alternative spaces, such as artists’ collectives occupying old stations and disused factories. There are a number of these in the Val-de-Marne: Anis Gras, Le lieu de l'autre in a former nineteenth-century distillery in Arcueil; Gare au Théâtre which occupies an old railway depot, and the Briqueterie, a former brickworks in Vitry-sur-Seine; L’Usine Hollander which is housed in an eighteenth-century former leather goods factory in Choisy-le-Roi, the Théâtre des Quartiers d’Ivry in the former eyelet factory La Manufacture des Œillets, and last but not least Le Nucleus, also in Ivry-sur-Seine, La Fonderie and La Halle Roublot in Fontenay-sous-Bois, the former Le Générateur cinema in Gentilly and the Pavillon Baltard in Nogent-sur-Marne.
There are also a number of interesting projects in the northern suburbs. Among those worth visiting are the 6B collective which holds events in a former office building in Saint-Denis, and Mains d'Œuvres which has occupied the former Valeo company sports and social club since 2001.