Montreal, September 4, 2003 ; Anne-Marie Idrac, President and Director General of the R�gie autonome des transports parisiens (RATP),

Press release

Restoration of the Guimard entourage gracing the entrance to
Square-Victoria métro station

Montreal, September 4, 2003 – Anne-Marie Idrac, President and Director General of the R�gie autonome des transports parisiens (RATP), Jean-Claude Cyr, Chairman of the Quartier international de Montréal (QIM) Board of Directors, and Claude Dauphin, Chairman of the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) Board of Directors, today presided over the official reopening of the Guimard entourage at Square-Victoria métro station, after its complete restoration, thanks to the cooperation of both the RATP and the QIM.

Created by architect Hector Guimard during the early years of the Paris métro, around 1900, the celebrated architectural element had been on loan to Montreal from the RATP since 1966. Installed at Square-Victoria station, the entourage enhanced the métro’s heritage architecture, while emphasizing the close relationship between the two cities and serving as a reminder of the RATP’s contribution to the design and construction of Montreal’s métro. Mrs. Idrac took the opportunity to announce that the Guimard artwork was now officially the property of the STM, as part of a cultural exchange program between the two corporations. The STM’s Chairman, Claude Dauphin, expressed his intention of returning the favour by organizing a competition, where a work of art by a Québecois artist will be created expressly for the Paris métro.

A successful restoration
During the planning stages of square Victoria’s redesign and reconstruction, the QIM had offered to restore the métro entrance. Thanks to a cooperation agreement between the STM and the RATP, the latter sent over experts to supervise the reinstallation of the entourage, which was fully restored using original components. Indeed, because the entrance’s staircase was larger than in Paris, it had never been possible to install the characteristic "métropolitain" sign between the two lamp posts. This unfortunate situation has now been corrected and, as a final touch, the RATP has provided white ceramic tiling, so characteristic of parisian métro stations, to adorn the staircase, making the Guimard métro entrance in Montreal entirely consistent with the architect’s original vision.

A bold architect
Born in Lyon in 1867, Hector Guimard attended l’École des arts d�coratifs and l’École des Beaux-arts in Paris. Rejecting the old-fashioned style taught in fine arts schools at the time, he preferred to imitate nature and quickly became one of the most important Art Nouveau creators in France.

In 1899, the Compagnie du métro Parisien commissioned him to design the entrances to the new underground railway that was to be inaugurated in 1900. He chose cast iron, as it lent itself well to the sinuous designs that marked his creative style, and proposed a modular concept that could be adapted to the different size of individual entrances. From simple surrounds, or entourages, to more elaborate shelters, 141 métro entrances were built according to his plans between 1900 and 1912. By then, the Art Nouveau style had become less popular, and other architects were called upon to design the newest entrances. Hector Guimard passed away in 1942 in New York. His entrance concepts have been indexed in the Inventaire suppl�mentaire des Monuments historiques since 1978, and to this day, remain one of the most recognizable symbols of Paris and its métro throughout the world.

Mr. Dauphin emphasized the boldness displayed by both Guimard and the leaders of the day, who had the courage to entrust the design of the Paris métro entrances to an architect whose style did not appeal to everyone, adding that "Thanks to the QIM and the RATP who have made this restoration possible, Montrealers can take pride in showcasing such an original work of art, equal to those in Paris, ranked among the most beautiful examples of Art Nouveau in the world."

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