In 1878, the Palais de Trocadéro was built for the Paris World’s Fair. For the 1937 World’s Fair (Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques), it was replaced by the Palais de Chaillot. Today the Palais de Chaillot is home to four different institutions: the national marine museum (Musée national de la Marine) and the Musée de l’Homme in the Passy Wing; the architecture and monuments museum (Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine) in the Paris wing; and the Chaillot national theatre (Théâtre national de Chaillot) in the central and underground areas.

The Palais du Trocadéro : 1878-1937

The only building from the 1878 World’s Fair to have remained after the fair’s closure, the Palais du Trocadéro would house two new museums in 1882: the Trocadero Ethnography Museum (Musée d’Ethnographie du Trocadéro) in the Passy wing and the Comparative Sculpture Museum (Musée de sculpture comparée) in the Paris wing, the precursors of the museums found their today.

The style and functionality of the Hispano-Moorish architecture designed by Davidioud and the engineer Bourdais were decried from the start by critics and the public alike. Yet in the early 1930s when plans for its total destruction moved forward in view of the projects for the upcoming World’s Fair, there was a sudden show of attachment for the monument.

The Palais de Chaillot: 1937-today

In 1935, with the World’s Fair fast approaching, it was decided that the former structure would be camouflaged, in keeping with the time and budget available. Originally intended to be temporary, plans for a monumental work of architecture eventually emerged, designed by Jacques Carlu in association with Louis Boileau and Léon Azéma. The wings were retained but doubled. Only the central section was destroyed to make room for an esplanade under which was the theatre with its large foyer.

Given the context of mounting Facism in Europe and the coming to power of the French Popular Front, a number of strikes interrupted the construction works, which were not entirely finished by the opening of the International Exposition. The Musée de l’Homme was inaugurated in the Passy wing in 1938 and the theatre only delivered in 1939.

Today, the Musée de l’Homme alone has retained the glass ceilings of the 1878 pavilions. The renovation carried out from 2009 to 2015 by the architects Brochet-Laujus-Pueyo and the architectural firm Nebout restored the ceilings to their former glory, opening up the second level of the pavilion to shed light all the way down to the museum’s vast visitor reception areas.Le Palais du Trocadéro : 1878-1937