Essential Architecture-  Paris

Palais de Chaillot Trocadéro


Louis-Hippolyte Boileau, Jacques Carlu and Léon Azema


metro station: Trocadéro




Stripped Classical


white stone


Exhibition hall
  The Trocadéro from the Eiffel Tower
Image copyright Tim Devlin.
  The Trocadéro Palace built for the Exposition Universelle of 1878, demolished and replaced by the Palais de Chaillot for the Exposition Internationale of 1937

The Trocadéro, site of the Palais de Chaillot, is an area of Paris, in the 16th arrondissement, across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower. The hill of the Trocadéro is the hill of Chaillot, a former village.

Origin of the name
In the Battle of Trocadero, the fortified position on the Bay of Cádiz in the south of Spain, was captured on August 31, 1823, by French forces led by the duc d'Angoulême, later Charles X. The goal was to intervene against the liberal Spanish who were rebelling against the autocracy of Ferdinand VII. Trocadero restored the autocratic Spanish Bourbon Ferdinand to the throne of Spain, in an action that defined the Restauration. In its origins, the name "trocadero" meant an emporium or place of trade.

The event was considered worthy of commemoration in Paris: the name place du Trocadéro was given in 1877 (though the name had been associated with the area since 1823) to a square formerly known as the place du Roi de Rome. Today that square is officially named place du Trocadéro et du 11 Novembre, though it is usually simply called the place du Trocadéro.

The stylish connotations of the Place du Trocadéro, inspired first the Trocadero Restaurant in London, and then multitudes of nightclubs and cinemas named "Trocadero".

The hill of Chaillot was first arranged for the 1867 World's Fair.

For the 1878 World's Fair, the (old) Palais du Trocadéro was built here (where meetings of international organizations could be held during the fair). The palace's form was that of a large concert hall with two wings and two towers; its style was a mixture of exotic and historical references, generally called "Moorish" but with some Byzantine elements. The architect was Gabriel Davioud. The concert hall contained a large organ built by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, the first large organ to be installed in a concert hall in France. The building proved unpopular, though the cost expended in its construction delayed its replacement for nearly fifty years.

Below the building, in the space left by former underground quarries, a large aquarium was built to contain fishes of French rivers. It was renovated in 1937 but closed again for renovation in 1985. The space between the palais and the Seine is set with gardens, designed by Jean-Charles Alphand, and an array of fountains.

The new Palais de Chaillot
For the Exposition Internationale of 1937, the old Palais du Trocadéro was demolished and replaced by the Palais de Chaillot which now tops the hill. It was designed in classicizing "moderne" style by architects Louis-Hippolyte Boileau, Jacques Carlu and Léon Azema. Like the old palais, the palais de Chaillot features two wings shaped to form a wide arc: indeed, these wings were build on the foundations of those of the former building. However, unlike the old palais, the wings are independent buildings and there is no central element to connect them: instead, a wide esplanade leaves an open view from the place du Trocadéro to the Eiffel Tower and beyond.

The buildings are decorated with quotations by Paul Valéry, and they now house a number of museums:

the Musée national de la Marine (naval museum) and the Musée de l'Homme (ethnology) in the southern (Passy) wing, 
the Musée national des Monuments français in the eastern (Paris) wing, from which one also enters the Théâtre national de Chaillot, a theater below the esplanade. 
It was on the front terrace of the palace that Adolf Hitler was pictured during his short tour of the vanquished city in 1940, with the Eiffel Tower in the background. This became an iconic image of the Second World War.

It is in the Palais de Chaillot that the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948. This event is now commemorated by a stone, and the esplanade is known as the esplanade des droits de l'homme ("esplanade of human rights").

Five avenues come from the Trocadéro: the avenue Henri-Martin which goes to the porte de la Muette and passes in front of the lycée Janson de Sailly (Janson de Sailly secondary school); the avenue Paul Doumer which goes to the Muette; the avenue d'Eylau which goes to the place of Mexico; the avenue Kléber which goes to the place de l'Etoile; and the avenue d'Iéna which go to the musée Guimet. There is a big municipal library near the Trocadéro's square.