For the impressive sum of € 80 million the Emir of Qatar’s brother, Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalifa al-Thani, bought in 2007 Hôtel Lambert which is situated at the tip of île Saint-Louis from the Rothschild banking family.
So he became owner of a so-called ‘hôtel particulier’. A private town palace, in the past built for the aristocracy, with a courtyard and, on occasion, a court garden as well.
The Lambert was designed by Le Vau and dates back to 1644. Baroque painters Le Brun and Le Sueur decorated the interiors.
The monument has known many rich and noble inhabitants. Numerous artists were guests in the palace, amongst whom Chopin, George Sand, Eugène Delacroix and Voltaire also lived there with his mistress.
In the 20th century the monument was divided into apartments. By then it had become clear that serious maintenance and restoration of the neglected interiors were more necessary than ever.
However, historic Paris was up in arms when it became aware of Emir’s brother’s plans regarding the € 40 million costing restoration and modernisation of the palace. The ‘Commission du Vieux Paris’, a kind of Amenities Committee put out a negative advice and the mayor of Paris responded to the authorisation permit issued by the Ministry of Culture.
The development of an underground car park, the raising of the garden wall, the visible air-conditioning and the addition of elevators at the cost of a 19th century staircase, evoked especially strong responses.
The ‘association Paris Historique’, a powerful association in favour of the preservation of Paris architectural heritage mobilised a protest. An internet petition secured over 7,500 votes and extensive media coverage did the rest. Finally, an administrative court suspended work on the palace in September 2009.
In early 2010 the Ministry of Culture, the city of Paris, the ‘association Paris Historique’ and the owner signed a protocol. The restoration would be in keeping with palace’s historical value and the meaning attributed to the monument’s facade, and would be based on original drawings.
Since then the building activities have been underway. The enforcement of the protocol is being monitored closely.
This spring a debate broke loose after the removal of various scaffolding banners. Even though the reinstalled ‘pots à feu’ were based on the original design, in the view of the critics they were too big and out of proportion to the current height of the roof.
The restoration works are set to be completed in September 2013. Whether historic discussions will fall silent, remains uncertain.