CNIT (Centre des Nouvelles Industries et Technologies)


Year of construction: 1958. Renovation in 1989 and 2009
Architects: Robert Camelot, Jean De Mailly and Bernard Zerhfuss. Rehabilitation Architects (2009) : BCA Brullman Crochon & Associates (2009) : BCA Brullman Crochon & Associates Surface area: 200,000 sq.m.
Height: 50m. 13 levels

Address: 2, parvis de La Défense - 92800 Puteaux
Nearest car park: Centre - Grande Arche
Nearest metro station: La Défense Grande Arche

A true icon of post-war French engineering and architecture, the Centre national de l'industrie et des techniques remains a reference point in La Défense. It is the first building to be constructed on the site - inaugurated on 12 September 1958. Jean de Mailly, Robert Camelot and Bernard Zehrfuss, all three winners of the Grand Prix de Rome, had already been commissioned to study the development of the new district and were responsible for its architectural design. This work could not be done without the collaboration of engineers like Bernard Lafaille.

The team developed the project for a vast vault resting on three support points and covering the triangular space of the ground. A double hull, consisting of two 6cm thick sails, is then created to symbolise this vault. With a span of 218 m, the structure is well ahead of the hangars at Marignane airport. The facades, 206 m long, are entirely glazed.
During the first renovation in 1989, the CNIT was split in two to house a shopping centre and a business centre, making it difficult to read. The last phase of work was then launched to facilitate its access. The ring of offices was split, the surroundings were cleared and direct access to the RER was provided.

Originally designed as an exhibition hall to replace the Grand Palais, the Cnit has since been transformed into a tertiary space. In 2009, it underwent restructuring work to create a multifunctional building complex of over 100,000 sq.m., housing offices, shops, conference and exhibition halls, as well as a 4-star hotel. The architects of the restructuring are BCA Brullman Crochon & Associés.

The new Cnit was inaugurated on 21 October 2009.

A word about the architects

Second Grand Prix de Rome in 1933, Robert Camelot (1903-1992) officiated in Paris until 1977. In collaboration with Jacques and Paul Herbé, he worked, among other things, on the pavilion of the Manufacture nationale de Sèvres at the 1937 Paris Exhibition. After the war, he designed the urban plans for cities such as Reims, Nanterre and Lisieux. From the 1950s onwards, he took part in the design of La Défense alongside Jean de Mailly and Bernard Zehrfuss. He is also the "father" of the first generation of towers and residences known as the "Palais Royal".

Jean de Mailly (1911-1975), who won the first Grand Prix de Rome in 1945, began his career with the reconstruction of the port of Toulon. In charge of the conservation of the Palais de Chaillot, he quickly became one of the emblematic figures of French modernism, combining classical architectural culture and functionalist theses. He exported this concept to La Défense where he was involved in several projects: CNIT, Bellini residence, telephone exchange... In addition to architecture, Jean de Mailly also practices painting.

Bernard Zehrfuss (1911-1996) won the Grand Prix de Rome in 1939. Until 1948, he officiated mainly in Tunisia and Algeria. On his return to France, he worked on the development of the industrialisation of housing while building the Unesco headquarters in Paris, which he extended until 1978. In 1950, Bernard Zehrfuss was asked to develop "the region" of La Défense. He then carried out a single project: the CNIT. Aware of the difficulties encountered by architecture on such a site, he disengaged from the trio he formed with Jean de Mailly and Robert Camelot.


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