The new Citroën showroom is at 42 Champs Elysées, the same spot where the company’s founder, André Citroën, built his first salesroom between the 1920s and 30s. The original layout was designed to show off the interior. Its rectangular plain glass façade onto the Champs Elysées was in keeping with the rigorously minimalist architecture typical of 1930’s rationalism.
The refurbishment by Manuelle Gautrand has retained some of the original design. The lower portion of the glazed façade comprises large rectangular glass panes of rationalist-minimalist stamp. Further up the elevation, however, between the first and second floors, the glass starts jutting out in shapes resembling the marque’s “double chevron”, and in the same red as the brand logo. As the building rises, the chevrons turn into lozenges and triangles, swelling as they climb to become a complex of prisms at the summit that affords greater visual depth. The multifaceted surface then folds back to become a roof of slightly smaller prisms. The result is a landmark building, a great glass sculpture recalling origami in its complexity.
The interior is the epitome of the modern showroom. The story is on display from vintage cars to the latest models. The solar filter in the transparent glazing envelopes everything in a pearly atmosphere. The building’s structural frame is immediately perceptible. Everything is fluidity of form with a circulation pathway leading upwards through the building in a series of staircases and walkways. The cars, the focus of attention, are set out on a column of eight circular platforms, one model on each platform. Six meters in diameter, the cantilevered platforms rotate around a mast set in the centre of the building. This arrangement, along with the different viewpoints provided by the circulation route, means the models are seen from all possible angles. A mirrored metal layer on each platform reflects the underside of each automobile. Visitors also have wide vistas across the Champs Elysées, the transparent roof and over the whole tree-shaped exhibition space.
The interior has a dual colour scheme: luminous white for walls and floors from ground floor to roof, and the Citroën red for the central mast and platform rims. Below ground in the area dedicated to photographic and film accounts of the car maker’s history, the rapport between the two colours inverts, with red becoming dominant.