Thursday, October 9, 2008

Centquatre: From Municipal Undertaking Center to Artist Space

I am always pleased to learn about a historic building that is given new life and a new use while keeping it's history alive. In my town, there are old tobacco warehouses that have been put to new use as performing arts spaces and antique malls. In the Portland, Oregon area where I used to live, old schools, hotels and even sanitariums have been given new life and new purposes. There is always something special in a reused old building that cannot be replicated by a new one. In Paris, an enormous old building complex that was once the center of State operated undertaking operations has been transformed into artist residence, studio, performance and gallery space. Following are two accounts of the history and new promise of 104 La Traversee.
Publicity for 104
Paris state funeral parlour transformed into modern art centre
A state funeral parlour where all the coffins for the dead of Paris were once made has been transformed into a modern art centre.
By Matthew Moore Last Updated: 4:14PM BST 08 Oct 2008
The building will now play host to dozens of painters, film-makers and designers, as part of a plan to revive the city's moribund art scene. Centquatre, in north-east Paris in one of the city's roughest districts, was originally built as an abattoir, but in 1905 was taken over by the authorities and converted into the city's central funeral parlour. With the state claiming a monopoly on funerals, business was brisk. More than 1,000 staff were employed in the vast space to build all the city's coffins, stable the horses used to pull corteges, and arrange all elements of funeral processions. After a renovation, the building has been transformed into a cutting-edge art space.
Artists can set up their studios in the imposing building in return for allowing the public to wander around and inspect their work.
An interior view of the vast space

[This] huge new promises to become a major cultural hotspot for the city, and one of the main ones in Europe. Centquatre (104) is yet another conversion of a public space into an artistic project and boasts 26,000 m2 of art galleries, ateliers, two perfomance theatres, featuring 200 resident artists. Hosted in the former Municipal Undertaking Service headquarters, 104 is the latest addiction to an impressive series of projects that in the past years have succeeded to create exciting new performing arts and cultural centres all over Europe.
The plan was set about by Bertrand Delanoe, mayor of Paris, and Christophe Girard, of the Paris Arts Council, and artists Robert Cantarella and Frederic Fisbach have been appointed as directors.

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Funeral service faces a crisis of relevance, and I am passionate about keeping the best traditions of service alive while adapting to the changing needs of families. Feel free to contact me with questions, or to share your thoughts on funeral service, ritual, and memorialization.


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