Maria Shollenbarger -- Interior Design, 5/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
Firm: Manuelle Gautrand Architecte
Though André-Gustave Citroën was born in Amsterdam, the auto company he founded in Paris in 1919 is as French as Camembert and Brigitte Bardot. The cars themselves had ceased to be style-makers almost two decades ago, when the last of the university student's beloved 2CVs, or Deux Chevaux, rolled off the production line. But once again the brand has wind beneath its double-chevron wings, with concept models attracting attention worldwide and a fabulous Paris showroom by Manuelle Gautrand Architecte drawing crowds on the Champs-Elysées.
Standing out between beaux arts neighbors, the glass-and-steel facade allows bystanders to see clearly inside to a five-story atrium. It centers on a full-height red-painted steel column supporting eight stacked platforms that rotate to show off a best-of lineup, from a 1934 Traction Avant to the newest models. The underside of each platform is mirror-polished stainless steel, which has the circuslike effect of abstracting the car below into whirling fragments.
Visitors can stop and admire the cars at eye level, thanks to the strategically placed landings of a staircase that spirals up the sides of the atrium. Back at ground level, there's a boutique, where built-in vitrines are stocked with tiny model cars. And the bright-red basement is dedicated to multi media presentations. From top to bottom, it's a stylish, provocative place full of pride in the past and confidence in the future—as French as French can be.