This year, a Paris property pioneer celebrates 50 years living and working in France. In half a century of developing office properties, the resilient Paul Raingold has navigated many cycles of boom, bust and recovery. In late 2020 he recovered from coronavirus. Happily, the rejuvenated Paul is now back in the workplace and developing offices in 2021. His golden anniversary is a good time to reflect on the beginning of Paul’s 50-year journey here.
Just like today’s Grand Paris, the early 1970s were a period of radical change in the built environment of Paris, rivalling even the Haussmann era. When Paul first arrived in 1971, Paris still had a 1946 look. Les grands travaux were well under way, but La Défense was just a handful of scattered towers, neither the boulevard périphérique nor the first RER A line were joined up, and there was no mega-airport on the green fields of Roissy.
The year 1971 saw political as well as physical change. De Gaulle’s successor, Georges Pompidou, was an ultra-modernist, loving the automobile – “it is up to the city to adapt itself to the car, not the reverse” – and renouncing “all these building regulations which make architecture so hard”. Under Pompidou, glass and steel towers appeared above Haussmann’s low-rise sandstone buildings. Les stations cathédrales at La Défense, Etoile, Auber and Les Halles were opened, gigantic underground hubs for the new RER express train, a forerunner of London’s future Crossrail.