The Paris Métro or Métropolitain is a rapid transit system in the Paris Metropolitan Area. A symbol of the city and a design icon, it is noted for its uniform architecture, influenced by Art Nouveau. In fact, the Paris Métro is famous for its Art Nouveau station entrances, more than anything. Designed by Hector Guimard in a style that caused some surprise and controversy in 1900, Paris Métro entranceswere built to coincide with Paris’ 1900 International Exposition.
Constructed from industrially manufactured cast iron pieces, these Métro entrances employ a new structural language, one that is comprised of elegant curves and sumptuous vegetal motifs—more rooted in fantasy than tradition or reality. There are two main variants:
The most elaborate feature glass canopies. Two original canopies still exist, at Porte Dauphine and Abbesses (originally located at Hôtel de Ville until moved in the 1970s). A replica of the canopy at Abbesses was installed at Châtelet station at the intersection of Rue des Halles and Rue Sainte-Opportune.
A cast-iron balustrade decorated in plant-like motifs, accompanied by a “Métropolitain” sign supported by two orange globes atop ornate cast-iron supports in the form of plant stems.
Later stations and redecorations have brought increasingly simple styles to entrances:
– Classical stone balustrades were chosen for some early stations in prestigious locations (Franklin D. Roosevelt, République).
– Simpler metal balustrades accompany a “Métro” sign crowned by a spherical lamp in other early stations (Saint-Placide).
– Minimalist stainless-steel balustrades appeared from the 1970s and signposts with just an “M” have been the norm since the war (Olympiades, opened 2007).
The Parisian architect and designer Hector Guimard was commissioned to make the Entrance Gate to Paris Subway (Métropolitain) Station not only to mark an entry to the new Paris Métro, but also to help make this new mode of transportation appealing to Parisians.
Entrance Gate to Paris Subway is designed in the style of Art Nouveau, an international style of decoration and architecture in the 1880s and 1890s that drew inspiration from nature and natural forms. The gate’s curvilinear lines and patterns were inspired by vines and flowers. Symmetrical, floral lights frame the Metro sign, both lighting the entrance and advertising the Métro. This blend of design, architecture, and advertisement was important to modern ideas.