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The palace was built in 1937 as a centerpiece of the Exposition Internationale (Paris World Fair).

Nearly sixty years before, the Palais du Trocadéro was built here for the 1878 World Fair. The palace's form was that of a large concert hall with two wings and two towers; its style was a mixture of exotic and historical references, generally called "Moorish" but with some Byzantine elements. The architect was Gabriel Davioud:

For the Exposition Internationale of 1937, the old Palais du Trocadéro was demolished and replaced by the Palais de Chaillot which now tops the hill.

It was designed in classicizing "moderne" style by architects Louis-Hippolyte Boileau (already famous for his 1925 and 1931 exhibition pavilions), Jacques Carlu and Léon Azéma.

Like the old palace, the new one features two wings shaped to form a wide arc: indeed, these wings were built on the foundations of those of the former building. However, unlike the old building, the wings are independent structures and there is no central element to connect them: instead, a wide esplanade leaves an open view from the place du Trocadéro to the Eiffel Tower and beyond.

The buildings are decorated with quotations by Paul Valéry, and sculptural groups at the attic level by Raymond Delamarre, Carlo Sarrabezolles and Alfred Bottiau. The eight gilded figures on the terrace of the Rights of Man are attributed to the sculptors Alexandre Descatoire, Marcel Gimond, Jean Paris dit Pryas, Paul Cornet, Lucien Brasseur, Robert Couturier, Paul Niclausse, and Félix-Alexandre Desruelles.
The buildings now houses a number of museums:

  • the Musée national de la Marine (naval museum) and the Musée de l'Homme (ethnology) in the southern (Passy) wing;
  • the Cité de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine, including the Musée national des Monuments Français, in the eastern (Paris) wing, from which one also enters the Théâtre national de Chaillot, a theater below the esplanade.

It was on the front terrace of the palace that Adolf Hitler was pictured during his short tour of the vanquished city in 1940, with the Eiffel Tower in the background. This became an iconic image of the Second World War. Albert Speer, who accompanied Hitler (he's on the picture above, in the left corner) wrote: "It surprised me that France also tends towards Neoclassicism in its stately buildings. Later there was a lot of talk about this style as a "trademark" of Totalitarian architecture. Nothing can be more erroneous, the style is first and foremost the sign of the era, we can see this sign in Washington, London and Paris as well as Rome and Moscow, and in our designs for Berlin, too. "

It is in the Palais de Chaillot that the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948. This event is now commemorated by a stone, and the esplanade is known as the esplanade des droits de l'homme ("esplanade of human rights"). The Palais de Chaillot was also the initial headquarters of NATO, while the "Palais de l'OTAN" (now Université Paris Dauphine) was being built.

There are thousands of photographs on the Web. However, for this post I preferred a set of amateur shots made by a friend on a grim winter day.

Color photos: © nicolya @ Dieselpunk LJ community. 1940 photo: ww2shots

Text (edited): Wiki

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