The Fondation Biermans-Lapôtre is one of the Cité internationale’s oldest houses. It was built thanks to Jean Hubert Biermans. This businessman of Dutch-Limburg origin started his career in the railroads in Belgium and then in the Independent State of the Congo. He made his fortune in Canada making pulp and was married in 1907 to the daughter of his former patron, Berthe Lapôtre.
Being very engaged in his philanthropic work, he decided to support the work of André Honnorat, one of the founding fathers of the Cité internationale. In 1924, along with his wife Berthe Lapôtre, he donated a large amount of money to the université de Paris to finance the construction of a house intended to house students from Belgium and Luxembourg in Paris. The house was inaugurated in 1927.
The house holds the status of a foundation and is recognised as a public utility of which the board of directors is chaired by the Belgian ambassador in France.
The history of the foundation in details
Armand Guéritte, the then chief architect for the government and charged with the Palace of Versailles, was also the architect behind the Maison des Provinces de France and drew up the building’s plans. His academicism was reflected in the monumental and symmetrical composition of the building. To signify the national connection of the foundation, he used motifs from traditional Flemish architecture such as turrets and gables. On the other hand, the use of freestone, brick and blue slate evokes traditional Walloon construction.
In 2000 the house underwent a major renovation that was carried out by the Régie belge des Bâtiments and financed by the Belgian and Luxembourg governments.
Since then the house has consisted of 201 rooms and 18 studios which are equipped with a bathroom, double glazing, a double flux air circulation system, a fire detection system, a new heating and electricity network and high-speed internet and Wi-Fi.
The Fondation Biermans-Lapôtre also has communal kitchens, a library, IT rooms, a reading room for journals and newspapers, a laundry room, ping-pong and sports room, a photo lab, music rooms and a cinema as well as a bar for its residents.
The house welcomes scientific, academic and cultural activities in its large festive room with a capacity of 390 people as well as in its south-facing gallery.
Jacques Santer, an economist and politician from Luxembourg, was the prime minister of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg before presiding the European Commission from 1995 to 1999. He was also the governor of the World Bank from 1984 until 1989 and then of the International Monetary Fund from 1989 until 1994.
The house’s entrance is surrounded by a monumental bas-relief by Marcel Gaumont, which symbolises literature and science, symbolising the students and their professors. The rounded door is protected by a gate bearing the Belgian coat of arms which was executed by Edgar Brandt, an artistic metalworker and eponymous creator of the famous French household appliance brand. The interior has richly decorated spaces, such as the festive hall with the frescos by René Gaucher representing the main towns in Belgium.