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Gehry’s American Center in Paris Gets New Lease on Life

Photos © Thierry ARDOUIN

In June, French film libraries Cinémathèque française and Bibliothèque du Film, moved into the renovated former American Center on rue de Bercy in Paris.

Designed by Frank Gehry, the American Center – which once held language, dance, theater and music courses and promoted American experimental music and theater – closed its doors for lack of funds in 1996. Purchased by the State two years later, the building has had its interior remodeled by Paris-based Atelier de l’île at a cost of $40 million.

Selected through competition, the firm’s heaviest renovation work involved the improvement of interior circulation, the construction of new floors and the creation of three new cinemas and a central hall. Although consulted before work began, Gehry recommended that the architects “not respect his building,” said Atelier de L’île principal Dominique Brard in the weekly construction magazine Le Moniteur des travaux publics et du bâtiment.

The Cinémathèque française has 40,000 films, as well as cinema-related objects, including 2000 actors’ costumes, in its collection. The Film Library stocks drawings, photographs, press reviews and other types of publication relating to cinema. The complex will open to the public in September.

Robert Such