You already know the work of architect Hector Guimard, perhaps without even realizing it. His most famous gift to Paris was the iron Metro entrances, an example of which you can see at the Abbesses station in Montmartre (pictured below). He even designed the typeface for the text.
But it’s not just at Abbesses. Many, many Metro stations feature his designs. Essentially, anything green and ornate at the Metro is the work of Guimard. And Guimard himself was the subject of this week’s podcast episode.
Guimard, sometimes called the “Pope of Art Nouveau”, designed over 50 residential buildings in Paris, but the 1960s saw Art Nouveau go out of fashion and many of his buildings were destroyed. Today there are only a handful of key Guimard buildings across Paris, with the highest concentration of them in the 16th arrondissements.
Over the years I’ve tracked down and visited the main buildings. Here’s how you can find them too.
But first: What is Art Nouveau?
Art Nouveau came out of the Belle Époque and took its inspiration from the natural world. It was a break away from the monotony of historicism and eclecticism in pursuit of more optimistic and innovative designs. In simpler words, if you see swirly asymmetrical designs on a building, if you see natural things like sculpted plants, fruits, vines, even animals, then you know you’re onto a good thing.
The Castel Béranger
This is the most famous of the Guimard buildings. It was constructed between 1895 and 1898 and is considered an Art Nouveau founding work – the first of its kind to be built in Paris. The facade was ranked as the most beautiful in Paris in 1898 and the building was declared a historic monument in 1972.
The front gate is unlike any other you’ll see in Paris. Just beyond the gate, the lobby was designed in the style of an underwater grotto.
I’ve snuck into this lobby several times, I’ve put all my pictures in this members-only blog post.
Address: 12 Rue Jean de la Fontaine, 75016.
Rue Agar: A full street of Hector Guimard
Just down the road from the Castel Béranger you’ll find a very small street that’s almost all the work of Guimard. Even the street signs are in his signature style. The buildings, drainpipes, balconies, even air vents are all his work.
At the base of one of the buildings above is the Art Nouveau bar Cravan. We spoke to the owner, Franck Audoux, on our podcast episode about the 16th arrondissement, which you can hear below. Also, click here for an in-depth blog post about the bar with loads of pictures of the interior.
Hector Guimard: the finer details
Look carefully while strolling around the 16th for small signs of Guimard’s work, whether it’s an abstract drainpipe, a door handle, or a swirly balcony. Note his signature on the third picture below, the easiest way to confirm you’ve found a Guimard building.
Additional Hector Houses to hunt
Hôtel Mezzara was built for textile and lace manufacturer Paul Mezzara. Even the iron gates outside the buildings are rich with detail. I mentioned this place on the podcast, I couldn’t get inside, but it is for sale, and you can take a very close look here.
Address: 60 Rue Jean de la Fontaine, 75016 Paris
The Hôtel Guimard was built by Guimard as his own personal home and architectural studio. Today it contains modern apartment buildings, but museums around the world showcase fittings from the original interior.
Address: 122 Av. Mozart, 75016 Paris.
Hôtel Jassedé was designed by Guimard in 1893, a little before he truly got into his famous curves.
Address: 41 Rue Chardon Lagache, 75016 Paris
The most hidden
On rue Boileau you’ll have to peek trough a fence to see this one from 1891!
Address: 34 Rue Boileau, 75016 Paris
In the Marais, you can find the only religiously-affiliated building that Guimard ever did. It’s a synagogue from 1914 in the Jewish quarter, full name: the Agoudas Hakehilos Synagogue.
Address: 10 Rue Pavée, 75004 Paris
Find Guimard in the Paris museums
Guimard was also a furniture designer, and his work can be found in the Petit Palais, the Musée d’Orsay, and the Musée des art decoratifs. If you’re in the US, you can find his work on display at the Dreihaus museum right now (as referenced on this week’s podcast episode).
Below are some pictures from the Art decoratifs museum.
What do people think of Guimard’s work today?
Well, just the fact that you’re reading this page might answer the question! While there was a distinct lack of interest in his work in the decades after it was displayed, there was a surge in its popularity from the 1970s onwards. .
And it’s clear that there is a public interest in his Paris buildings today. You’ll often see tourists in Paris taking photos of the Guimard buildings, and especially the ornate Metro entrances.
Meanwhile, furniture and even small parts of Guimard’s work fetch a fortune at auctions. The cast iron escutcheon for the Paris Metro, pictured below and designed by Guimard, sold for over €4,500 fairly recently. On the podcast this week we get even deeper into these sales.
If you look closely, you can see the M for “Metro” on the recently sold escutcheon above. And if you’re lucky, you might find other escutcheons around Paris today (hint: there are some at the Monceau Metro entrance, Bastille, and many more).
The Earful Tower podcast episode
If you enjoyed this article, you’ll probably love our podcast episode on Hector Guimard. You can listen below.
Tour the 16th arrondissement in our YouTube video
While we’re talking of the 16th arrondissement, here’s what happened when we visited in 2022, in video format, from our YouTube channel, so you can feel like you’re there too! Be sure to subscribe (you can do it in one click via this link).
And that’s it! A big thanks to Charlotte Pleasants for additional reporting, Augusta Sagnelli for the photos, and to the Patreon members who make all this possible. Join them here.
As for us, you can find all our tips for the 16th district’s best restaurants, cafes, and attractions here. Oh yes, and you can also support our work by buying one of our children’s books, or our PDF guide, below. Merci!