Launching the rehabilitation of a registered Historic Monument is a particularly complex task, especially in the midst of such an extremely dense urban environment. This ambitious project for the Réfectoire has several aims: ensuring the building’s longevity, preservation and visibility, whilst upgrading an events room to safety standards and creating 39 housing units for scholars.

A perspective view of the renovated Réfectoire and pavilion.

Going back to the roots of the Réfectoire des Cordeliers

The decision to create housing units upstairs and to re-establish a large events space and reception hall downstairs signals a genuine return to the roots of the Réfectoire, which for years served as a dormitory and a dining hall for the Franciscan monks.

The 39 housing units will be located on the 1st and 2nd floors. 21 of them will be devoted to young researchers, and 18 will be offered to international scholars who wish to come and work in the capital. An 18th-century “welcome pavilion” adjacent to the Réfectoire will also be renovated and upgraded to safety standards.

A blueprint of the 1st floor and of the future housing units

The project’s core principles

For this project, architectural firm Lefevre Architectes followed a three-pronged approach: a respect for all things authentic, the clarity of all interventions, and the reversibility of the site.

Such an approach was essential to ensure the preservation and the showcasing of the Réfectoire’s authentic elements, the identification of the various contemporary alterations, and the future evolution of the site.

A perspective view of the great events room

The Réfectoire’s great room will be refurbished so as to allow maximum versatility for the space’s future uses: exhibitions, concerts, fashion shows, conferences, etc. The walls will thus be cleaned, their base will be lined with contemporary wainscoting, and the room’s floor will be replaced so it can withstand significant operational overload when large crowds are present.

The Réfectoire’s attic will also be refurbished to serve as storage space for all the technical equipment required for the organization of the aforementioned events. A freight elevator will allow for the quick transportation of this equipment from the attic to the events room. Finally, maximum capacity of the ground-floor space is set at 700 people.

Reversibility and modularity as architectural innovations

As underlined by Daniel Lefèvre, architecte en chef des Monuments Historiques (Chief Architect of Historic Monuments), “the project’s interventions will be as reversible as possible, so as to allow future generations to alter the Réfectoire’s spaces and their uses”.

The general aspect of the Réfectoire will not undergo significant changes, since the objective is to preserve the building’s structure. Certain elements will be thoroughly redesigned, such as access to the upper floors and the installation of brand new flooring and new carpentry work in the upper floors.
The most significant alteration of the façades will consist in the reinstatement of the allèges1 of the 13 bays on the South façade, which had been previously demolished.

Several alterations to secure the Réfectoire

The Réfectoire’s restoration involves several steps. Several interior as well as exterior parts will thus be renovated or replaced, even though no major destruction is scheduled.
The façades’ stones that have been damaged by humidity will be replaced, with an eye on the colors and textures of the original stones which remain in good condition.

The façades and roofing of the Réfectoire will be restored. The carpentry of the great room being in too poor of a condition to be restored, new carpentry will be installed. Although it will evoke the aspect of the carpentry that was installed in the early 19th century, it will be made of steel, with a contemporary look. Finally, the installation of double-glazed windows will ensure better thermal and acoustic comfort for the residents of the housing units.

Technical specifications:

Creation of 39 housing units for scholars: 21 units of PLS-financed social housing for young researchers and 18 units for international scholars.
700sqm events room.

Floor area of the buildings: 2,000sqm, plus 86.3sqm for the welcome pavilion.
Surface area of the plot of land: 14,504sqm.

Delivery: 2nd semester of 2018.

General contractor: Daniel Lefèvre, architecte en chef des monuments

Overall budget = 15,698,377 €, VAT included

RIVP: 9,514,493 €
City of Paris: 3,985,000 € + 840,000 € (PLS)
State: 1,358,884 €



1Allège : Une allège est la partie du mur située entre le plancher et l’appui d’une fenêtre.