Paris: Art & Architecture of the Métro

The sculpted green cast iron arches with overhanging amber lamps showcasing the iconic yellow and green “METROPOLITAIN” sign that marks the entrances to Paris’ Métro system have become iconic symbols of the city. Designed by architect Hector Guimard for the opening of the Métro on July 19, 1900, the Art Nouveau entrances were created in three designs: glass canopies, cast iron balustrades and pavilions. Today, 86 of the original 167 survive and act as functioning stations. The entrances are both artistic and historical treasures, a cultural tradition of public art works throughout the Métro system that the RATP (the Parisian transit operators) continues to maintain. Newer, contemporary designs have been commissioned by the RATP, one of the most popular being the entrance for the Palais Royal Musée du Louvre, Place Colette, designed by artist Jean-Michel Othoniel for the centenary celebration of the Métro in 2000. The permanent installation is entitled “Le Kiosque des Noctambules” (Kiosk of the Night Crawlers) and features a silver frame topped by two domes, representing night and day, that are adorned with colorful, large glass bulbs.