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Folies Parisiennes Theatre - Expo Paris 1889

Folies Parisiennes Theatre at the Exhibition Expo Paris 1889
Architect(s) : Letorey, Schryveer

Theatre is perhaps a very big word for an establishment which puts such a cheerful label on its pediment, and which, moreover, does not claim to correct morals even by laughing, but above all to offer visitors, tired of the wonders of all kinds which make up the Exhibition, a few moments of rest, embellished with amusing shows, chopped up into small plays, ballets, interspersed with ditties, acrobats, orchestral music, in a word everything, a few moments of rest, enhanced by amusing shows, chopped up into small pieces, ballets, interspersed with ditties, acrobats, orchestral music, in a word, everything that can distract the eye without tiring the attention. ... and the ears.

It will be more than a theatre, in the true sense of the word, a café-concert or a café-spectacle, if you like.

On this side there is nothing new, but what is curious is the aspect of the hall which, seen from the side, appears to be a vast tent made of oriental fabrics; what is new is the all-iron construction of the theatre itself, which serves as a sort of exhibition for Mr. Schryveer, the engineer-constructor-inventor of dismountable and transportable steel houses, for his system applied to the construction of theatres.

This system also has the advantage of being economical, and it was necessary, because this is what was recommended to him above all by the directors of the Folies-Parisiennes, who have only six months to earn the price of their building, the depreciation of which is naturally included in their general expenses.

This wise and prudent economy is not incompatible, moreover, with the rigorous prescriptions established to ensure the safety of spectators.

The example of the Opéra-Comique, unfortunately all too recent, has not yet been forgotten, and everyone will benefit from it, the administration, to hold the hand in the execution of its decrees, the directors to lend themselves willingly to it and even to go beyond it.

In reality, the serious danger always comes from the part of the theatre where the stage and the theatre services are located. It is this part that needs to be built in a special way.

Here the precautions have been taken further than in ordinary constructions.

While the frame of the hall itself is made of wood, the framework of the stage area is made of iron; but, in addition, M. de Schryveer et Cie, the builders of the Palace of Liberal Arts, who were commissioned to carry out this construction, decided not to use any other materials and to make the walls and partitions entirely of metal, which seems to remove any chance of fire and does not at all harm the decoration, which can just as easily be painted or decorated with cardboard as in any other construction.

The design of an all-metal building, from base to peak, has long been sought. But until now, the difficulty has been that iron is too conductive, making the building almost uninhabitable in all seasons. It was an oven in the summer, an ice house when it was cold.

It is true that a palliative had been imagined, consisting of forming the wall from two sheets of metal with an insulating body in between.

But we finally realised that the best insulator is air: a mattress of air between the two walls and that is enough, if we allow this air to circulate, entering through the lower part and flowing out through the ridge.

Heating one of the metal sides of the wall only causes a more active draught. This was verified in a very significant experiment in which Mr. Dauby heated the outer sheet to a temperature of 60 degrees, the temperature of the inner wall never exceeded 5 degrees, but the speed of the air flow between the two sheets reached one metre per second.

It is easy to imagine then the mode of construction which is suitable and which is applied to the theatre of the Folies-Parisiennes of Messrs. Daubray, Scipion and Richard, at least in the part occupied by the stage.

The walls are made of panels of thin pressed steel sheet, one millimetre thick. The deep-drawing also allows them to be sufficiently decorative.

These sheets are riveted on either side of an iron frame which holds them 16 centimetres apart, so that air can circulate between them.

The roof itself is made up in the same way, and the whole construction is so light that no foundation was needed; it rests entirely on U-shaped irons, laid flat on the ground.

This pretty little building occupies a site of forty by twenty metres, between the Operations building and the Eiffel Tower, which it will certainly not crush with its mass.

If the use of iron protects it from fire, it is, however, to be feared that it will acquire an unpleasant sound, but let's wait for the use before judging, especially since we are in very new conditions, the hall being only partially closed.

The architect of the Folies-Parisiennes is M. Letorey, the decorator of the Trocadero and the Hôtel Continental, and his decoration will do him credit, for the theatre is elegant, picturesque, and above all very original.

©Livre d'Or de l'Exposition - Maurice Dulac.