History of buildings


The gallery of palaeontology and comparative anatomy

In 1892, architect Ferdinand Dutert – who was renowned for the creation of the "Galerie des machines" at the 1889 Universal Exhibition – was chosen to build the gallery. Following in the footsteps of Eiffel and Bartholdi, Dutert concentrated on using brick, iron and glass in a style inspired by Art Nouveau, and integrated a major sculpting programme into its construction, which many artists participated in.

First opened in 1898, the gallery breaks with tradition, exhibiting just a selection of specimens rather than presenting an exhaustive display of each collection. And, for the first time in France, it presents the theory of evolution.

The botanical gallery

Inaugurated in 1935, the Botanical Gallery owes its creation in part to three American botanists who, at the end of the 1920s, convinced the Rockefeller Foundation to provide the initial funds required for its construction.

Today, the completely renovated building houses the collections, the phanerogamy and cryptogamy laboratories, and the largest herbarium in the world.

Since its inception in the 17th century, the Herbarium has been compiled from exchanges, gifts and purchases between botanists, amateurs, explorers, colonial administrators and institutions.

With 25,000 specimens in 1803, its collection comprises nearly 8 million specimens today.

The gallery of mineralogy

Designed by Charles Rohault de Fleury (1801-1875), the Galerie de Minéralogie et de Géologie was a veritable innovation in the museum world when it opened in 1841. It is 187 metres long and consists of two rows of 18 columns, which support glass domes over almost 100 metres. Initially, it housed the mineralogy and botany collections, as well as an amphitheatre and the museum library.

Partially renovated, the gallery has revived its original purpose of conserving and exhibiting its collections and invites visitors to discover the history of the Earth as it reflects a sliver of mankind’s understanding of nature.

The grand gallery of evolution

Built on the occasion of the Universal Exhibition, partly on the site of the Medicine Cabinet of the Royal Garden of Medicinal Plants, the Galerie de Zoologie was known as "the Louvre of Natural Sciences" when it opened in 1889. Its architect, Jules André (1819-1890), not only designed it for the purpose of exhibiting the Museum's incomparable collections, but also to evoke the "great men" who played a key role in the history of the Jardin des Plantes.

In 1994, following large-scale renovations, it became the Grande Galerie de l'évolution and took on an environmental and evolutionary dimension.

The Rohault de Fleury greenhouses

In place of the first wood and glass greenhouses built at the beginning of the 18th century (which housed the coffee tree given to Louis XIV in 1714 by the Burgomaster of Amsterdam), Charles Rohault de Fleury, the architect of the Museum, built two twin rectangular greenhouses between 1834 and 1836, which measured 20 metres by 12 metres and were heated by coal.

Known as the "Mexican Greenhouse" and the "Australian Greenhouse" and extended by lower, curved greenhouses, they mark the beginning of French metal architecture.

The René-Félix Berger greenhouse

Inaugurated in 1937, this 750m2 greenhouse was built on the site of what had been Jules André’s "Winter Garden" in the 1880s. It is the work of René-Félix Berger (1878-1954), architect of civil buildings and national palaces, to whom we also owe the predator enclosure of the menagerie.

This greenhouse, now the "Tropical Forest Greenhouse", is characterised by its monumental entrance with illuminated "Art Deco" style iron and glass cylindrical pillars. Inside the building is a 15-metre-tall artificial rock face with a waterfall that flows into a stream.

The Hôtel de Magny

This former mansion, which previously belonged to Joseph Foucault, Marquis of Magny, was built between 1696 and 1700 by architect Pierre Bullet (1639-1716).

In 1787, Buffon acquired it and incorporated it into the Royal Garden of Medicinal Plants as the garden stewards’ building, in which the faculty members’ meetings were held.

Restored in 1870 by Jules André, architect of the Galerie de Zoologie, it still houses the Museum's administration department.

The fontaine aux moines

Standing on a base of monumental fossils, this monolith made of Saint-Maximin Liais (hard limestone) is a vestige of the Saint-Victor abbey, which once spread over the current sites of Sorbonne University and part of the Jardin des Plantes.

This antique fountain, whose water used to flow from the plateau through spouts decorated with bronze lions' heads, was installed on the lawn opposite the Verniquet amphitheatre at the beginning of the 19th century before being moved to its current location in the early 2000s.

The Gloriette de Buffon

The gazebo was created on the orders of Buffon, according to designs drawn up by Edme Verniquet, the king's architect, and built by Claude-Vincent Mille, the king's locksmith, between April 1786 and March 1787. Built using iron from Buffon’s forges in Burgundy, it is today the oldest metal monument still standing in Paris.

The seven metals used to build it (gold, silver, copper, iron, tin, lead and mercury) refer to the symbolism associated with these materials in many traditions. The iron frame is concealed under bronze and copper cladding. At the top is a weathervane and an armillary sphere which originally activated a mechanism at noon to mark midday. The mechanism has been lost.

The lion fountain and reservoir

Built in 1834 by Charles Rohault de Fleury, the labyrinth reservoir was fed by the Ourq canal. It supplied the various water features and fountains in the garden by means of a pump fitted under the pool. In 1857, the state commissioned Henri-Alfred Jacquemart to create a bronze sculpture depicting the story of Woira, the lion of the Versailles menagerie who formed an inseparable friendship with a dog. To accompany this bronze sculpture, Jacquemart was also commissioned to make another lion for the flowerbeds of the Louvre and this was finally given to the Museum in 1860 as a counterpoint to the first.

The Verniquet amphitheatre

In 1787, shortly before his death, Buffon commissioned the architect Edme Verniquet (1727-1804) to build a new amphitheatre that would be larger than the one already located in the Cabinet d'histoire naturelle on the newly acquired land of the Hôtel de Magny. Intended for teaching purposes, the building was modified in 1794 with the addition of three semi-circular pavilions (absidioles) which housed laboratories. The amphitheatre was the largest lecture hall in the capital, with a capacity of almost 600 seats! On the frontispiece, a high relief symbolises science, while a decorative clock with two dials, made by Paute de Bellefontaine in 1790, sits above it. Restored in the early 2000s, it is now used as a venue for large conferences.

The whale

In 1795, the Museum acquired a group of properties, including the former building of the Compagnie des fiacres. It was turned into an exceptional gallery of comparative anatomy by Georges Cuvier. In 1806, a dozen rooms were opened to the public. As the collections grew, the building quickly became cramped. To free up space in the galleries, the whale skeletons were placed outside in the courtyard and in front of the building. While the comparative anatomy collections were integrated into the new gallery, which was inaugurated in 1898, the whales remained in place for a while after, offering visitors to the garden an unexpected face-to-face encounter and giving the building a name that it retains to this day.

The labyrinth

"Coypeau Hill" was originally an artificial mound made of rubble and waste, on which a windmill was built. When the Royal Botanical Garden was created, this medieval dumping ground was converted into a "mountain", where a spiral pathway climbed up to a platform planted with a tree. The mound is now a "labyrinth".

In 1671, the rubble from the construction of the Porte de Saint-Denis was deposited on the slope of the labyrinth, forming the "small labyrinth". Closed to the public, it is a place where nature is allowed to grow wild so that plant and animal species that have spontaneously colonised this space can be observed.

The Delaage building

Since 1963, the library has been located in a double building designed by architect Henri-Marie Delaage. The first building, which was intended for readers, is characterised by its curtain-wall façades which let in a lot of light; the second, mainly made of concrete, is dedicated to the conservation of its collections.

The metal mesh on the garden façade dates back to the early 1990s and was installed by architects Paul Chemetov and Borja Huidobro, who were also tasked with the renovation of the neighbouring Grande Galerie.

    Découvrez Nos dossiers