The third life of the Sporting d’Hiver
The demolition of the Sporting d’Hiver, the austere 1930s Art Deco building on the Place du Casino, has understandably stirred some emotions; a truly natural response sparked by nostalgia. However, knowing the history of the place well allows us to understand that the construction of the Place du Casino’s new look follows in the same vein. It all began in 1893 with the inauguration of the Palais des Beaux-Arts, built next to the Hôtel de Paris, which met the growing need to offer Monaco holidaymakers a place of artistic exhibition as well as a party venue. Its lobby, lit by a huge glass roof with a metal frame, was an architectural feat for its time. Within this year-long summer micro-climate, precious plants won the admiration of visitors, particularly the prized orchids which added flashes of lively colour to the surroundings. To the right of the hall, the ballroom came to life with costume balls, concerts, plays and ballets. To its left, painting and sculpture exhibitions were constantly rolled out. In 1897, a small technological miracle was showcased: people rushed to see the new Lioret phonograph which was already all the rage in Parisian living rooms. In 1929, the Palais des Beaux-Arts became old before its time: it was demolished. In 1931, it gave way to an incredibly modern building, the Sporting d’Hiver. Heralding the concept of the leisure complex, it offered areas for dancing, dining, gambling, bars and shows – all under the one roof. In 2018, it will give way to seven small glass buildings, at the foot of which will be a vast, high-end luxury shopping area. The magnificent Salle des Arts, whose walls have witnessed countless major exhibitions, will be rebuilt identically. Thus, beneath the glass transparencies of the twenty-first century, the clamour of the twentieth-century celebrations will continue to resonate.