The expansion of the Cité

Despite the severe blow delivered by the Second World War, the ideals of pacifism had lost none of their relevance and guided the Cité Universitaire towards a fresh impetus for growth. With the estate restored and 17 new residences, masterpieces of architecture, the Cité was able to accommodate up to 5,500 students in an outstanding setting. It was the time for the Cité to expand.

by Lucille Testard de Marans

After the war, an estate in disrepair

Since the damage caused by the occupation of the site by the German and American armies had been considerable, on emerging from the war years, the Cité Universitaire embarked on a huge campaign of restoration of the estate. The athletic tracks, the sports pitches and the great lawn were repaired and refurbished, new trees were planted and finally, at the end of the 1950’s, the Cité was restored to its pre-war condition.

The new impetus to build

The severe blow delivered to pacifist ideals by the Second World War, however, did not shake the resolve of the directors. Urged on by Raoul DAUTRY, who succeeded HONNORAT as President of the Fondation nationale in 1948, the Cité was quick to commit itself to a new era of construction: 12 residences were built in the 1950’s, followed by 5 more in the 1960’s. With 17 new residences the Cité saw its accommodation capacity increase to 5,500 beds, in other words, double its capacity at the end of the first period of construction (1925-1938).

Created mainly with the support of foreign governments – patrons were now harder to find – these foundations were built, for the most part, on new building plots located on the east and south of the park.

A veritable exhibition of 20th century architecture

Whereas the first period of construction was characterised in particular by the co-existence of a variety of architectural styles evoking the national identity of the residences, this new period saw the evolution of an international style, represented by masterpieces created by famous architects. Among them: LE CORBUSIER, Lucio COSTA, not to mention Claude PARENT.

The construction of the ring-road motorway: a watershed for management of the site

At the end of the 1950’s the construction of the ring-road totally altered the appearance of the site and thwarted the Cité Universitaire’s extension aspirations in the long term.

In fact, in its location on the southern edge of the Cité, the ring-road sliced off a fringe of land, 60 metres wide all along its length, depriving the Cité of 2 hectares of land suitable for building. As well as reducing the area of the site, the ring-road cut the estate in two: one of the two buildings belonging to the Maison des Arts et Métiers found itself isolated on the other side of the ring-road. In fact, some of the sports facilities had to be removed or re-organised to free the southern edge of the site.

From that moment on, restricted to the south and to the north, to the east and to the west, the Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris, as it was named as from 1963, no longer had any room for expansion and the building of the Maison de l’Iran brought an end to the second cycle of construction. It was not until 2012 and the exchanges of land that there was any further glimmering of hope for fresh perspectives for developing the site.



Construction of  the ring-road: between the Maison du Cambodge (foreground) and the Maison des Arts et Metiers (background)

To find out more about the history of the Cité, its architecture, its tasks and its development visit L/Oblique: a permanent exhibition, themed guided tours (on the architecture, the park, the artistic creations, the everyday life of the Cité and the development project) and innovative digital media will transport you through time and space on a voyage of discovery of this exceptional place.