Élysée Palace’s optical interiors designed for president Georges Pompidou in the 70s

In 1972 Domus published Yacov Agam and Pierre Paulin's designs for the French President's apartments in Paris, the project where the famous Élysée furniture collection was prototyped. We feature them in the days when France returns to the presidential vote.

All French sovereigns, be they elected or not, always wanted to leave their material mark on the national territory, if not directly on the capital, and their personal residence has never been an exception to this rule. The old Palais de l’Élysée, the eighteenth-century hôtel particulier belonging to the Count of Évreux and then to Madame de Pompadour, has been the home to the Head of State since the origins of republican France, and throughout decades of its history, many episodes of neglect and then indispensable major maintenance have aligned: the same happened with a series of extremely different tenants. 

Georges Pompidou, president of the radical years between 1969 and 1974, was not only a heavy smoker but also a great lover of design and contemporary art: just think of which building would bring his name right at the heart of Paris. He commissioned a true contemporary installation for his private residence, with a work by Yacov Agam in the vestibule and three rooms designed by Pierre Paulin, who developed his famous Élysée furniture collection for the occasion.

Domus presented the project in June 1972, in number 511, immediately following French Communist Party headquarters by Oscar Niemeyer.

Sequel: the tenant after Pompidou, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, wanted to impose his more classicist tastes on the spaces, but Paulin returned to create pieces for the Elysée during François Mitterrand's presidency between 1985 and 1989.

domus 511, 1972 - elysee paris
Domus 511, June 1972

250 years old, the Elysée was in bad shape, despite de Gaulle. Urgent work undertaken by Pompidou: repairing the roofs, transforming and upgrading the kitchens and systems, restoring the old official halls, inserting new ‘private’ rooms. Architect of the president, for this private part, Pierre Paulin, through the Atelier de Recherche et Création of the Mobilier National. The outset: a demountable set-up, which does not touch the walls. Hence the appearance of a soft capsule that these environments – living room, smoking room, dining room – have defined intended environments (within the pre-existing spaces, or partially abandoned, of three rooms along a corridor), by a light metal structure, to which they are attached vaulted elements, prefabricated, in metal tube with wool coverings (living room, smoking room) or in GRP (dining room).

Details in the photos: in the living room, the wall of paintings (loaned, in rotation, by French museums: here, a Robert Delaunay between two Kupkas); in the dining room, the fantastic glass rod chandelier ceiling reflected in the glass tables; in the fumir, the seat-walls. The entrance area that precedes these rooms is completely different: an environment by Jacov Agam, visually changing according to the place of the observer.

domus 511, 1972 - elysee paris
The ‘environnement cinétique tota’ by Yacov Agam at the Élysée , Paris. In Domus 511, giugno 1972

Latest on Domus


Latest on Domus

Read more
China Germany India Mexico, Central America and Caribbean Sri Lanka Korea icon-camera close icon-comments icon-down-sm icon-download icon-facebook icon-heart icon-heart icon-next-sm icon-next icon-pinterest icon-play icon-plus icon-prev-sm icon-prev Search icon-twitter icon-views icon-instagram