The design of the Maison internationale was entrusted in April 1933 to the American architect Jean-Frédéric Larson. He was inspired by classical French architecture, in particular the Château de Fontainebleau, to create a building in the “neo-Louis XIII” style. It forms a monumental ensemble of 22,000 m2 composed of two symmetrical entrance pavilions, a courtyard of honour and a central building flanked by two wings.
The Maison internationale was inaugurated in 1936. It was the fourth of its kind to be built, after New York (1924), Berkeley (1930) and Chicago (1932). It was financed by a donation from the American philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Junior. After devoting part of his fortune to the restoration of the castles of Fontainebleau and Versailles, he became interested in the Cité internationale. The idea was to build a common space for all the houses to encourage meetings and mixing. It has been welcoming students since 1976.
Major renovation work has been undertaken in 2021 and 2022 as part of the State-Region Plan (CPER) to improve the reception, comfort and safety of users. They have enabled the creation of two separate reception areas: one for the general public and another dedicated to events. The Heritage Centre has also been integrated into the building’s lobby to allow the public to discover the campus’ exceptional heritage. On the second floor, the library has been modernised and the Language Centre enlarged. The renovation project complied with the strategic guidelines of the Île-de-France Region’s Sustainable Development and Construction Guide.