Paris Journal: Snøhetta-designed headquarters for Le Monde Group opens

(photo © Marwan Harmouche)

by Ron Bernthal

With the completion in late 2020 of its new Paris headquarters, designed by Snøhetta, the 1,600 employees of the Le Monde Group have been brought together under the same roof. With its new plaza and semi-transparent facade, the stunning building on Avenue Pierre-Mendès-France in the 13th arrondissement, is not only a private office structure but also creates connections with the general public and surrounding transit options. Just before opening in December, the building received the prestigious French real estate award, the Grand Prix SIMI, within the category “New Office Building Larger Than 100,000 Square-Feet.”

Aerial view of headquarters building for the Le Monde Group (photo © Ludwig Favre)

The Le Monde Group comprises some of France’s most famous publications, including Le Monde, Courrier International, Télérama, La Vie, and HuffPost. The new headquarters will also include six newsrooms that will now share a common home on the Rive Gauche (Left Bank) of Paris, while remaining independent and retaining their own space in the building.

“I am happy the Le Monde Group has chosen the heart of the Paris Rive Gauche district as home for its new headquarters, and by doing so, contributing to the district’s transformation,” said Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris. “Besides the building’s unique architecture, the project’s openness to its surroundings will make it an important part of everyday life for the district’s residents, workers, and visitors to the 13th arrondissement. At a time where information and dialogue are more essential than ever, my hope is that 67-69 Avenue Pierre-Mendès-France becomes the heart of this exchange, promoting transparent and accessible information for all.”

Located adjacent to the historic Gare d’Austerlitz train station, the project is also close the Latin Quarter and the lush gardens of the Jardin des Plantes. The concave form of the building bridges the below-grade railyard, anchored on both sides with two seven-story cantilevering building spaces held together by a complex network of steel. Snøhetta says that the three gestural “cuts” shape the building’s mass: the “sky cut” reveals the oblique surface of the solar-panel-clad roof; the “city cut” pulls the building back from the along its street-facing facade; and the “ground cut” carves out the underside of the bridging structure, enveloping the new public plaza together beneath its expansive arched form.

(photo © Jared Chulski)

“The construction of the Le Monde Group Headquarters marks a historic milestone for all our publications,” said Louis Dreyfus, CEO of the Le Monde Group. “Our building illustrates both our editorial and aesthetic ambitions, but also the diversity of our newsrooms. In a world where the demand for high quality information is only increasing, our new common home offers our 1,600 employees a luminous working space with top amenities and dedicated spaces for each newsroom. This in turn ensures that we can continue to deliver journalistic content on all our platforms and in all formats, whether written or audiovisual, both today and in the future.”

The almost 250,000 square-foot Le Monde Group Headquarters is built at the intersection of the old, historic parts of Paris, and the more modern districts alongn the Left Bank. A previously industrialized area with railway tracks, the district has seen lots of revitalization projects since the beginning of the 1990’s, under one of the most comprehensive urban developments of the French capital since 18th century. Today, the district has continued to develop as a high-density commercial and business district.

(photo © Jared Chulski)

The building’s facade is composed of more than 20,000 pixelated glass elements in an organized pattern with 772 possible configurations which give the building’s exterior an appearance that shifts with the changing weather and light conditions. This highly sophisticated pattern references the printed letters of newspapers and magazines and makes up a text-like pattern that can be read more clearly when the 100,000 square-foot facade is seen from a distance.

Visitors to the building are greeted by a broad public plaza with integrated vegetation. The plaza invites passersby to linger and interact while also creating connections to the city streets on each side of the building. During 2021 this physical connection will be enhanced with the introduction of a new bridge that will span across the neighboring rail tracks of Gare d’Austerlitz. (Austerlitz Rail Station).

New retail spaces will also help to keep the building in the public’s mind. Situated below the arch of the building, custom designed concrete benches offer refuge from the activity of the busy surrounding area. The site further encourages diverse transit modes and greener mobility with more than 300 bicycle parking slots.

(Photo © Jared Chulski

For visitors, the Le Monde Group Headquarters can be accessed from the two extremities of the building, one of them public, leading to food and retail services and providing access to a two-story auditorium. The other entry leads to a reception area for parts of the building which are only accessible to the Le Monde Group employees. The reception area is beautifully designed, with a grey-scaled concrete terrazzo flooring that is similar to the plaza outside.

With its floor-to-ceiling windows, and views overlooking the Seine and the surrounding districts of Paris, the offices offer a bright and spacious backdrop for the thousands of employees and journalists of the Le Monde Group. The second floor feature amenities such as a library, a staff restaurant and an analogue archive dedicated to Le Monde Group.

On top floor of new building Snohetta designed a terrace cafe (photo © Jared Chulski)

The top level of the building leads out to an open-air terrace which is accessible from both sides of the building. Framed by vegetation, the terrace creates beautiful views overlooking the surrounding cityscape and the Seine.