Cinémathèque Française – Paris, France - Atlas Obscura
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Cinémathèque Française

This lesser-known Frank Gehry building houses a treasure trove of cinema history. 

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As befits the city where the first movies were projected, the Cinémathèque Française is one of Paris’s several film-focused destinations. Established in 1936, the organization dedicates itself to the conservation of film reels, cameras, props, costumes, and memorabilia. But visitors don’t have to be film buffs to appreciate its Frank Gehry-designed headquarters.

Although it seems to have been designed with movies in mind, the building was originally created for the American Center in Paris, a now-defunct hub dedicated to fostering American culture in the French capital. With his signature stylistic swoops and draping planes, renowned architect Frank Gehry constructed a façade that hinted at the multi-functional, cross-cultural spaces within. Now, this edifice seems tailor-made to a building dedicated to the modern art of film with its projecting surfaces and multiple perspectives.

For nine years, the building stood ghost-like at the edge of Parc de Bercy after the American Center in Paris dissolved. Before it could be converted to a center dedicated to cinema, the building’s interior underwent changes, such as converting rehearsal studios into storage rooms. But its exterior and main hall remain virtually the same, allowing visitors to see within their dynamic shapes and dramatic angles a metaphor not only for cinema but for all fine arts.

Know Before You Go

Located in the 12th arrondissement, the Cinémathèque Française offers screenings of movies from all eras and genres in addition to its onsite museum and library.

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