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The rebirth of the Samaritan

It is the emblem of the Parisian Belle Époque. After sixteen years hidden under tarpaulins, the Samaritaine finally reveals itself to us and opens the doors of its luminous lair! A long-awaited rebirth of the department store, owned by LVMH, conceived as an extension of the modern spirit of the founding couple and turned towards the expectations of the 21st century.

The golden mosaic façade makes the quays of the Seine sparkle while the wrought iron canopy illuminates the majestic staircase of the atrium. It is hard to imagine that the Samaritaine was born in 1870 from a simple shop on the corner of rue de la Monnaie, facing the Pont-Neuf. However, Ernest Cognacq immediately saw its geographical advantage. Accompanied by his wife Marie-Louise Jaÿ, he began his rise by acquiring the adjoining stores, before building a masterpiece of Art Nouveau architecture in 1910, designed by Frantz Jourdain. Soon, the establishment with its organic ornamentation and delicate ironwork was joined by a second equally spectacular building. This new store, designed in 1928 by architect Henri Sauvage, marked the arrival of the Art Deco movement. These two architectural feats affirm the ambition of this avant-garde couple, who sought to compete with the Parisian department stores of the time. The inhabitants of the neighborhood ran to the Samaritaine to find the latest dresses, stroll between the fabric stalls or simply to be seen.

However, the store’s influence was about to wane. In 2005, the Samaritaine closed its doors with the aim of rehabilitating its almost century-old structure. The LVMH group’s project was ambitious: to restore the two listed buildings and add a bold extension to give the department store a contemporary dimension. Nearly sixteen years later, the store has regained its former glory.

More than a retail space, the new Samaritaine is a place of discoveries, surprises and experiences, in constant evolution! Fashion is decompartmentalized, offering a selection of luxury brands as well as a presentation of young emerging designers. If the Art Nouveau building (now called Pont-Neuf) is an invitation to stroll and relax in a refined interior in dialogue with the historic building, the new building on rue de Rivoli is an ode to modernity. Despised at the time of its construction, the structure imagined by the Japanese agency Sanaa (architects behind the Louvre-Lens) subtly responds to the two historic buildings. Its façade, entirely made of wavy glass, plays on both transparency and the reflection of daylight, like the Art Nouveau glass roof and the golden mosaic decorations. The dialogue between past and present extends to the interior, where Morris column-like structures and fragments of Haussmannian facades invite the city into the store. In this new space, art is king, emerging through exhibitions of talent from the Perrotin gallery, but also in La Factory. A living and evolving space that offers young artists carte blanche to create works in situ.

At La Samaritaine, the French art of living is exalted in all its forms, including gastronomy! However, the department store does not ignore the social commitment that the Cognacq-Jaÿ couple gave it in the beginning. The LVMH group is perpetuating these humanist values by offering social housing and a day care center in the heart of the new space.

The renovated establishment brings a new perspective to department stores. Glorifying its past, inviting the present and preparing for the future, La Samaritaine is dusting off the code of luxury. Attracting foreign customers as well as local residents, it seems to seduce any curious person in search of novelty. A successful renaissance that promises to be eternal!