The French Minister of Culture Opposes Destroying the BnF Staircase

Jean-Louis Pascal (1837-1920)
Staircase Leading to the Cabinet des Medailles.
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, site Richelieu
Photo : Didier Rykner

4/9/12 - Heritage - Paris, Bibliothèque nationale - While the previous Minister of Culture had finally authorized, as we wrote here, the destruction of the staircase at the Bibliothèque nationale (ill.), rue de Richelieu, Aurélie Filippetti, speaking before the personnel at the Cultural Ministry, has now stated she wishes to impose a moratorium on this operation. The reasons for this decision deserve mentioning. First of all, the Minister explained that an existing staircase which functions perfectly well should not be destroyed during an austerity period as another one would have to be immediately built. Secondly, she added that it would be hard to understand why the Ministry of Culture protects its heritage in Orleans but destroys it in Paris.

These words should be warmly commended. As far as we know, this is the first time that a French Minister of Culture acknowledges that the ministry (or the departments under it) are guilty of vandalism and clearly oppose it. We are very pleased to hear so. This is confirmation that there is now a real cultural minister rue de Valois [ministry headquarters] and several people who have met her to discuss heritage questions attest to her knowledge of the various affairs involved as well as her fervent interest in the subject.
However, the management at the Bibliothèque nationale de France will probably try to oppose this moratorium, as it has done since the beginning of the project. Still, it can no longer claim this decision has caught it unawares and is delaying the project : two years ago, Frédéric Mitterand had requested that a counter-proposal be presented by an architect. To our knowledge, this counter-project, which is now indispensable, was never carried out [1] !

In any case, the project has now been stopped and is at least one year late. After discovering the presence of asbestos, it seems that lead particles have also been detected at excessively high levels.

Version française

Didier Rykner, mardi 4 septembre 2012


[1] We had in fact asked if we could see it but were refused access since it of course does not exist.

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