The Battle for the Theater in Poitiers

1. Édouard Lardillier
Old theater in Poitiers, 1954
Photo : Laurent Prysmicki

29/11/13 - Heritage - Poitiers, old theater - A little over a year ago, we started a series on the historical heritage of the city of Poitiers. We published only two articles though there were many issues to be discussed there, as in other cities as well.
Today, the problem concerns the old theater (ill. 1). True, this monument built in 1954 does not fall within The Art Tribune’s time period (as was the case also for the Halles de Fontainebleau, 1942). However its architecture is very close to Art Déco and, unfortunately, the fate awaiting it proves that the City of Art and History known as Poitiers is at times negligent in its attention to heritage, whether it be the Middle Ages, the 19th or even as here, the 20th century.

2. Édouard Lardillier
Old theater in Poitiers (hall)
Robert Pansart (1909-1973)
Engraved mirror in the theater in Poitiers
Verre églomisé
Photo : Laurent Prysmicki

3. Robert Pansart (1909-1973)
Engraved mirror at the theater in Poitiers
Verre églomisé
Photo : Didier Rykner

This theater, designed by the architect Edouard Lardillier [1], a specialist in the field, is a very elegant building which has preserved both its façade and a large portion of its interior décor. The most interesting part is the hall (ill. 2 to 4), and an immense wall (90 m2) decorated with verre églomisé (in silver and gold leaf), the largest example existing today in France of this technique, used notably by Robert Pansart in the ocean liner France. Another example can be found in Paris at the old Berlitz cinéma, today the Gaumont Opéra Premier.
The theater is going to be sold to a private developer (for only 510,000€) who is planning to transform it into a shopping mall. Although the façade and the entrance hall will be kept, the foyer and the large screening room (ill. 5) which shows a certain elegance, will be destroyed. This transformation/destruction reeks suspiciously of a "façade operation", depriving this entertainment venue of its cultural purpose, despite the fact that the building is in good condition and deserves to remain intact.

4. Robert Pansart (1909-1973)
Engraved mirror in theater in Poitiers (detail, Poetry
Verre églomisé
Photo : Didier Rykner

5. Édouard Lardillier
Old theater in Poitiers (interior)
Photo : Laurent Prysmicki

In response to this threat, an association for the defense of the old theater in Poitiers was created, a petition (which readers can sign online) launched (the support committee includes such names as Jean François Balmer, Lucas Belvaux and Nicole Garcia) and an application for listing addressed to the French Ministry of Culture. Moreover, the association filed an appeal against the Poitiers Municipal Council’s decision authorizing the sale of the theater.
A very detailed investigation, presenting both sides of the argument, appeared yesterday on the Mediapart website (unfortunately, access is for subscribers only) and last September, Michel Guerrin had published a very pertinent analysis of the affair (this article is also reserved to subscribers). In it, he expressed his surprise at the fact that the theater was not listed, stating that if it had been, "this battle would not have happened". A word of advice to the Minister of Culture : it is still not too late to make up for this negligence and show some interest in 20th century heritage with a concrete gesture.

Addendum :

6. Project for the transformation of the old
theater in Poitiers
© Document de travail François Pin

We are adding a photograph of the theater’s façade after the planned renovation (ill. 6), published by France3-Poitou-Charentes. It proves that the alteration of the monument is not restricted to the inside and justifies even further a request for a listing of the entire building.

Version française

Didier Rykner, vendredi 29 novembre 2013


[1] We would like to thank Laurent Prysmicki for sending us the text recounting the history of the theater and the current situation, as well as for allowing us to use his photographs.

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