The Cité universitaire was born out of concerns from both hygienists and pacifists at the end of the First World War as well as the desire to respond to the housing crisis. The ambition of these founders was to create a “school of human relations for peace” by offering French and international students good-quality student housing in a place that was conducive to encounters and multicultural exchanges.
In 1919 André Honnorat, one of the Cité universitaire’s founders, expressed his desire to create “a place where young people from all countries could, at the age where we form lasting friendships, have contacts that allowed them to get to know and appreciate each other”. In 1920 the minister of public education and fine arts, along with Paul Appell, a mathematician and chancellor at the University of Paris, imagined an estate designed to accommodate Parisian university students. For the two men, defenders of international pacifism and members of influential circles working around the League of Nations, the education of the youth and the exchanges between countries could create a basis for peace and prevent the return of worldwide conflict. To achieve this ideal they found the first great benefactor to finance the entire first residence in 1925 (the Fondation Emile et Louise Deustch de le Meurthe) in Émile Deutsch de la Meurthe, a prosperous industrialist at the head of Pétroles Jupiter which would later become SHELL France.
After the construction of the Fondation Deutsch de la Meurthe, the Cité universitaire was given the international dimension that André Honnorat has sought from the beginning. Supported by the administrative and legal talent of Jean Branet, a state councillor who became the CEO of Pétroles Jupiter, and by the generosity and engagement of the banker David David-Weill, the Fondation nationale, a non-profit, was established. It was recognised as a public utility in 1925 and formed the foundation for the future development of this visionary project. Jean Branet wrote up the statutes of the foundation and gave the organisation to the Cité universitaire. By his side, David David-Weill performed the essential role of treasurer. Thanks to diverse donations the Cité universitaire was able to acquire a hectare and a half of land for expansion in 1927. This project, barely solidified at the beginning, would transform over the years thanks to the involvement of influential figures, each bringing their own cultural model and world vision in an evolving geopolitical context.
One of the essential designs of the Cité universitaire is to introduce some of the intellects that are the hope for tomorrow and to make them realise that people, despite the diversity of their origins and the traditions that they have formed, are not so different from one another as they might have imagined.
André Honnorat and Paul Appell’s dream of a “school of human relations for peace” took a concrete turn in 1921. It was then a race against time to make this project a reality despite the numerous administrative difficulties that needed to be overcome.
As of 1925 construction picked up pace. Foreign governments, benefactors and schools rallied to fund the construction of the first houses. In less than 15 years, 19 buildings were constructed on the campus.
In spite of the severe blow dealt by the Second World War, the pacifist ideals had not lost their relevance. A refurbished estate and 17 new buildings housed up to 5500 students. It’s the time of the Cité universitaire’s expansion.
The Cité universitaire owes its existence to imagination, humanism and the perseverance of exceptional people, politicians, intellectuals, industrialists and benefactors. They were able to create a “school for human relations for peace”.
Minister of public education and fine arts from 1920 to 1921, he was the main founder of the Cité universitaire. He was its president from its creation until 1948.
A prosperous industrialist at the head of Pétroles Jupiter, Émile Deutsch de la Meurthe financed the first campus house.
Mathematician and chancellor for the University of Paris, he is one of the main founders of the Cité universitaire.
The city of Paris, a land full of demoted fortifications, donated a 9-hectare strip of land on boulevard Jourdan for the creation of a Cité universitaire. The law also required the City of Paris to reserve 19 hectares on the adjacent land for the University of Paris. There were 28 hectares that made up the initial property of the Cité universitaire.
André Honnorat take his presidency of the Fondation de droit privé, recognised as a public utility.
Founded by Philippe Roy’s initiative, who was the High Commissioner of the Canadian government, at the beginning of the 1920s, the house was approved by two architects, the Frenchman Emile Thomas and the Canadian Georges Vanier.
The Maison des étudiants belges et luxembourgeois was built thanks to Jean-Hubert Biermans, a businessman who made his fortune in Canada. This monumental building evokes traditional Flemish and Walloon architecture.
The house was destined to serve as the home for Argentinian students living in Paris and to strengthen the ties between the two countries. Its realisation was entrusted to three French and Argentinian architects.
The Maison internationale Agroparistech is the first house for engineering students at the Cité internationale. It was financed by the French Ministry of Agriculture.
The house was constructed thanks to the generosity of Jirohachi Satsuma, the grandson of the wealthy Japanese spinning merchant. The narrow plot required the construction of a tall house, inspired by Japanese buildings. The large lounge and hall are decorated with two murals painted by the famous painter Foujuta: “The arrivals of Westerners in Japan” and “The horses”.
The Armenian diplomat and philanthropist Boghos Nubar made a donation to finance the building of an Armenian Pavilion. The building, by the architect Léon Nafilyan, carries on the tradition of Armenian architecture.
The former Maison de l’indochine, it was created in the context of colonial France at that time. The funding was thanks to an initiative committee, consisting mainly of French industrialists in the region. It was designed by Pierre Martin and Maurice Vieu.
Inaugurated before its founders, the American couple Mabel and Homer Gage, the building was designed to embody Franco-American relations and to offer accommodation to American students and researchers in Paris.
The Swedish student house owes its existence to the “L’Amitié Franco-Suédoise” association. It was designed by the architects Peder Clason and Germain Debré.
The Fondation danoise was financed by private and public means. It was designed by professor Kaj Gottlob. The building’s style expresses both the classicism and Nordic functionalism of the interwar period. At the same time, it is simple, plain and welcoming.
The rallying of Greek Francophiles, and notably the ambassador Nicolas Politis, was decisive for raising the funds needed to construct this building. Designed by the architect Nikolaos Zahos, the building pays homage to ancient Greek architecture.
This building is one of the campus’s masterpieces. It was realised by Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret in a decisively avant-garde style, heralding the “radiant cities” of the future. It is the Cité universitaire’s first modern building. The Fondation Rosa Abreu de Grancher, designed by Albert Laprade, was inaugurated in the same year.
The Maison des Provinces de France was designed by the chief architect for the Palace of Versailles, Armand Guéritte. When it was opened, this imposing building was the Cité universitaire’s largest building with 320 rooms. The first donations were intended to be put towards a foundation for Alsatian students who, in 1918, became French again. Thanks to additional funds, both public and private, the project was expanded to all of the French regions.
The design of this building, financed by John D Rockefeller junior, was entrusted in 1933 to the American architect Jean-Frédéric Larson. He was inspired by classical French architecture, in particular the Château de Fontainebleau.
The idea for this house came from Prince Pierre de Polignac, the grandfather of the current Prince Albert II. In 1929 the first donation allowed for 50 beds. The building was designed by Julien Médecin. The Collège d’Espagne was inaugurated in the same year.
Created to testify to the relationship between France and Great Britain, the college was intended to house an equal number of French and English students. Among the donors were the French state and a Franco-British couple called Edward and Helen Nathan. The Collège franco-britannique was designed by Pierre Martin and Maurice Vieu.
The idea for its construction came from a committee that was created in 1924 by Frans Vreede, the director of the Centre d’études néerlandaises in Paris. It is the only work by Willem Marinus Dudok built in France thus constituting a unique testimony to one of the most important architects of the école hollandaise in the interwar period.
The Cité universitaire was occupied. Some houses were requisitioned by German troupes, then by the Allies, and suffered a lot of damage.
The inauguration of two new houses in the new construction era: the Fondation Victor Lyon and the Maison des élèves ingénieurs Arts et Métiers.
Under its former name of Maison de la France d’Outre-Mer, this residence was originally intended for students from French territories overseas as well as French students whose parents resided there.
The project was conceived in 1947 when Tunisia was still under French rule. It’s the work of the architect Jean Sebag. The house is distinguished by the quality of its interior equipment and by its furniture made by Charlotte Perriand, Jean Prouvé, Alain Richard, Marcel Gascoin and Pierre Faucheux.
A plot was reserved for the residence intended to accommodate Mexican university students as early as 1925. The Maison du Mexique was inaugurated on the 8th of October 1953. Its construction was funded by the Mexican government and by individuals, notably families belonging to the French colony established in Mexico. It was designed by the architect Jorge L. Medellin and the engineer Roberto L. Medellin.
The Maison de Norvège was built thanks to a donation from a Norwegian committee that had received grants from both France and Norway. It is the work of the Norwegian architect Reidar Winge Lund. Initially designed to have 50 rooms, the building’s size was eventually doubled to meet the University of Paris’s wishes.
The Maison des industries agricoles et alimentaires was financed by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Association nationale de la meunerie française. It was designed by the architects Francis Thieulin and Xavier de Vigan who were on a tight budget. They thus opted for modest volumes with two wings that were centred around the vertical of the staircase.
In spite of the fact that contracts were established in 1927, the Maison de l’Allemagne was late to open given the political context. The project didn’t see the light of day until the 1950s when it was realised thanks to a support committee. The building was the first official representation of Germany in France, ten years after the war.
Built thanks to a donation from the Royal Cambodian Government, the building was designed by the architect Alfred Audoul. From the 1970s, the civil war in Cambodia troubled the community of Cambodian students in Paris. In 1973, the house’s residents faced violent incidents. It became uncontrollable and the house was closed. It only reopened its doors some thirty years later.
The Maison de l’Italie was built late due to the political context in the interwar period. Its realisation was made possible thanks to the generous donations from the Italian state and public and private foundations such as the Italian Rotary Club.
Its construction was financed by the Brazilian Institute of Educational Studies. The building was realised by Lucio Costa and Le Corbusier, two great figures in the modern architecture movement.
The ring road marked the end of the campus’s expansion at the end of the sixties and the loss of buildable land.
The first Lebanese woman to hold a doctorate degree from the Sorbonne, Victoria Khouzami founded the Franco-Lebanese cultural association in 1948 to promote the construction of a pavilion intended to welcome 100 high-level Lebanese students. Its conception was entrusted to the architects Jean Vernon and Bruno Philippe.
In 1960, José Henrique de Azeredo-Perdigao, the president of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, pledged to finance the construction of a house for Portuguese students and researchers. It has borne the name of André de Gouveia since 1974.
Thirteen years after its independence from the British Empire, the act of donating money to construct an Indian house was approved by the Indian government as suggested by the Indian Ambassador to Paris. In 2013 an adjacent pavilion was constructed to the east of the first building.
In the context of Iran’s international openness and its privileged cultural exchanges with France, the Shah, encouraged by his wife Farah Diba, an alumnus of the Collège néerlandais, decided to build a house with 100 rooms for Iranian students. This building was realised by Claude Parent, André Bloc, Mossem Foroughi et Hedar Ghiai and would be the last pavilion constructed at the Cité internationale during the second phase of construction. It was named the Fondation Avicenne in 1972.
The Cité internationale is now going through a notable development phase. By 2025, some 100 years after its creation, it will welcome 10 new houses and will modernise all of its services. Discover this new stage of the campus’s evolution.
To find out more about the history of the Cité internationale, its architecture, houses and its development, visit the Heritage Center: a permanent exhibition, themed tours and innovative digital media will transport you through time and space to discover this exceptional place.