Day 50/365 of Steel – Gare d’Orsay

On 28 May 1900, the Gare d’Orsay (now the Musée d’Orsay) was opened. The name refers to the place where it was built, the Quai d’Orsay. In 1986, the station building turned into the Musée d’Orsay. The building was designed by the French architect Victor-Alexandre Laloux for the Compagnie du chemin de fer de Paris à Orléans (PO), and was built between 1898 and 1900.

The Gare d'Orsay Interior
Fig 1: The Gare d’Orsay Interior
Photo: Wikimedia

Victor Laloux chose to completely discard the apparent metal construction from the outset (contrary to Hénard’s initial advice, for whom the use of new materials was essential for the good visibility and apprehension of the building). He did not dare to assert the structure in order to better “respect the surrounding buildings” and the proximity of the Louvre and the Tuileries.

Musée d'Orsay
Fig 2: Left: Gare d’Orsay, Right: Musée d’Orsay
Photo: Wikimedia / Douglas O’Brien 

Laloux invoked a “tradition of innovation” to defend his party and create a building that would be both new and worthy of its location. The cladding of the metal parts was in no way considered at the time to be in contradiction with a “functional” or “rational” approach to construction. After the anchoring and chaining, each metal pillar will be completely hidden by a masonry filling.

Paris Musée d'Orsay
Fig 3: Paris Musée d’Orsay
Photo: Pierre André Leclercq

Initially, the station was intended for visitors to the Exposition Universelle of that year. It also had to improve the accessibility within Paris; for the PO the Gare d’Austerlitz was too eccentric. Because the line from Gare d’Austerlitz was largely underground, steam traction was not possible. The trains ran under steam until Gare d’Austerlitz and were then driven by electric locomotives to Gare d’Orsay. The interior of the station could therefore be very richly decorated without fear of damage from steam and smoke.

The Gare d'Orsay in operation
Fig 4: The Gare d’Orsay in operation
Photo: © Musée d’Orsay / Patrice Schmidt

About the Author:

Bruno Dursin – Managing Director at Believe in Steel. Bruno has more than 30 years of experience in promoting steel & steel solutions. His clients benefit from his extensive network within the building industry.

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