Essential Architecture-  Paris

Usine Electrique de la Compagnie Parisienne d’Air Comprimé


Paul Friesé


132 Quai de Jemmapes, 10th.




Victorian Industrial


brick cladding, steel frame


The 10th is perfect for admiring the 19th-century’s architectural shift into iron and glass construction. Huge iron beams were first used in train station architecture. The exposed iron had a machine-made, purpose-filled look which expressed the concept of progress put forward by the Industrial Revolution. Builders took advantage of the beams’ flexibility and strength to create radical innovations in construction. Architect Baltard used the metal structure of the train shed as inspiration for his famous market buildings in Les Halles. Bridge engineers like Gustave Eiffel continued the experiment with girders and created the Eiffel Tower. In the 10th arrondissement, you can admire the Gare de l’Est and the Gare du Nord, then cross to the Canal Saint Martin, where you can witness the evolution of metal architecture from train sheds to dramatic and beautiful industrial buildings. The Canal was the dockyard of Paris, where materials arrived by barge as well as train, allowing industry to flourish. The most innovative industrial buildings lined the quays here, and this air compression factory is a fabulous surviving example. Best admired from the far side of the canal, the building is a real show-off, with homey rough stonework, classical interplay of colored brick, imposing stone columns, and every shape of window. But most important is its wonderful metal exoskeleton of blue-grey beams—looking at the exposed structure, you can feel the Modern period about to bloom.


By Lisa Pasold (Special thanks to