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Cité Universitaire de Paris: 90 years of multiculturalism, 10 new residences being built

Large university campus in the south of Paris and home to 40 residence halls representing 40 different countries, the Cité Universitaire celebrated its 90th birthday this year. It plans to grow in the next five years, adding 10 additional residences by 2020.

The Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris, also called CIUP or Cité U, was envisioned and built in 1925 by then Education Minister André Honnorat. The stated objective was to foster a spirit of peace and cooperation between nations and improve international understanding in the wake of the First World War, putting strong focus on cultivating cultural diversity on its grounds. Wealthy philanthropists donated heavily to the project include John D. Rockefeller Jr., with one of the Cité’s main avenues later named after him.

The administration of this cultural mosaic is complex. Some of the land is owned by the French State and some by the City of Paris. 18 of the 40 buildings are overseen by the Cité itself, while the 22 others are managed independently by the foreign countries they represent.

Bordering the 14th arrondissement of Paris, the Cité is located near the Parc Montsouris and comprises living residences, sports fields, restaurants, a theater and a library. This flat tower of Babel welcomes 12,000 students each year from 140 different nationalities. Its 84 acres hosts a number of architectural jewels.

Architectural heritage:

The Cité’s open gates allow Parisians to meander through the vast gardens and lawns, and the aesthetically diverse pavilions. Each one of the 40 pavilions was built with the intent of representing the spirit of the nation it corresponds to.

The houses of Switzerland and Brazil were devised by Swiss architect Le Corbusier, easily recognizable through their geometric contours and flashes of bright color.

90th Anniversary Celebration:

Throughout its history, the Cité has hosted several notable individuals, including Sartre and Aimé Césaire. Their names joined others in an exhibition that ran from May to August of this year, presenting “90 famous former residents of the Cité Internationale”.

Also for its 90th anniversary, the Cité has launched the “Inside” virtual space, presenting the portraits, writings and video of 90 current residents — of all ages, backgrounds and nationalities — in order to showcase the Cité’s enduring multiculturalism.

New residential housing projects:

10 large new residence buildings will be added by 2020, comprising 1800 individual apartments and increasing capacity at Cité Universitaire by 30%. These will include a “South Korea house” and a regional “house of Ile-de-France”. The residential projects are one of thirteen parts of an extensive Campus Plan. They will cost the Ministry of Education 22 million euros.

“The renovated Cité, modernized and enlarged, will be better able to support the Paris university community” explains François Weill, chancellor of the Parisian universities group.

He adds that the project’s aim is to make the Cité an exemplary campus at an international level, both in terms of urban planning and student life.

The plan includes the construction of new bridges and walkways to facilitate movement within the campus, as well as an “international garden” created by the gardeners of the Franco-British foundation. A long wall of foliage extending on the campus’ southern rim — in keeping with other Paris’ green-wall initiatives — will provide a visual and acoustic barrier to the noise and pollution from the nearby ring road.


Photo credit: Flickr / David Bertho

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