Musée d'Orsay: Alphonse-Adolphe Cusin Théâtre de la Gaîté

Alphonse-Adolphe Cusin
Théâtre de la Gaîté

Théâtre de la Gaîté, elevation of the main façade and profiles
Alphonse-Adolphe Cusin (1820 - after 1895)
Théâtre de la Gaîté, elevation of the main façade and profiles
Circa 1861
Graphite, pen and black ink, watercolour
H. 68.7; W. 102.7 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / René-Gabriel Ojéda

Théâtre de la Gaîté, élévation de la façade principale et profils [Théâtre de la Gaîté, elevation of the main façade and profiles]

Baron Haussmann's building projects and the construction of the grand boulevards resulted in many theatres being demolished, like the popular establishments on the "boulevard of crime" (Boulevard du Temple).
When the question of reconstruction was raised, the theatre owners wished to be located near to each other in order to attract audiences more easily. So Haussmann created a new complex which included the Théâtre de la Gaîté, built between 1862 and 1864 by Alphonse Cusin, situated on the Square des Arts et Métiers. It was near the Théâtre Lyrique and the Théâtre du Cirque Impérial, designed by Gabriel Davioud on the Place du Châtelet. It was decided not to leave them isolated, but to include them in a series of buildings to be let, and to surround them with shops.

The general style was Italian Renaissance, and these new theatres all had arcades at ground level and a loggia on the first floor. The buildings on each side of the Théâtre de la Gaîté featured a sequence of Ionic columns, creating a façade 44 metres in length. It was one of the biggest auditoriums in Paris, seating 1800 people, and was true to Haussmann's aim: "to make the new theatres monuments worthy of the capital of France, to build them solidly and decorate them richly, to create wide and easy access with well-lit and well-ventilated auditoriums".
Alas, we now know the transformations this theatre was subject to – notably its conversion into a "leisure centre" at the end of the 1980s, for which the beautiful Italian-style auditorium was demolished.

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