Iron stems with ribs and branches support the airy canopy over the metro stairs. The four glass wings which earned this structure the nickname of libellule or dragonfly, slope towards the central spine. It’s a beautiful design but also a very practical one; rain water collects in a central gutter, leaving the edges of the roof uncluttered.
This is the Place Saint-Opportune entrance to Chatelet metro station, an exact replica of one of the art nouveau entrances designed by Hector Guimard in 1899. Guimard’s designs for underground station entrances were the first to be installed on the newly opened metro network but his playful style, inspired by natural plant and animal forms, wasn’t to everyone’s taste. By 1904 the railway company was employing a new architect to design serious, neoclassical stone entrances to the main stations in prominent positions. Many of Guimard’s entrances were lost to later modernisations. Around 80 of his simpler, roofless style survive but only two of the original glass roofed édicules, at Porte Dauphine and Abbesses stations. Times change, new eyes look at old styles and metro art nouveau is now considered a design classic. Just in time.