Back in 2005, La Samaritaine-- the shopping mecca near Pont Neuf in the heart of Paris-- closed its doors because the building was a fire hazard. A city institution, La Samaritaine got its start as a boutique in 1869 before expanding into a glass and steel department store in the early 20th century. (Architects Franz Jourdain and Henri Sauvage aesthetically transformed the structure into the iconic store adored by Parisians from all walks of life.) The rooftop terrace was a fabulous destination for gawking over the Seine and the city skyline. Long considered the most democratic of the city’s grand magasins, La Samaritaine fell into decline in the 1970s with the demolition of Les Halles-- the city’s once vibrant central marketplace-- which had also attracted the store’s clientele.
Now owned by LVMH, the luxury goods conglomerate, La Samaritaine is slated for a dramatic renovation that will last three years and cost 450 million euros. The city of Paris recently revealed the details of the project, to be overseen by the Japanese architecture firm SANAA, winner of the prestigious Pritzker prize. When La Samaritaine reopens in 2014, it will house a luxury hotel, commercial space, shops, and public apartments. Facing the Seine, the 80-room hotel will occupy the Art Deco portion of the building and be managed by Cheval Blanc, LVMH’s hotel group. To learn more about the venture, curious visitors can check out the “Maison du projet” located at 83 rue de Rivoli.