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Paris' Grand Palais completes vast renovation

After 12 years of renovation work, the Grand Palais in Paris, a turn-of-the-century steel-framed marvel, will reopen its doors next month.

Almost 2,000 subterranean pylons and 280 tonnes of glass have been used in the 100 million euro overhaul of the famous, but structurally unsound, cultural centre.

Though the Palais, built for the 1900 World's Fair, had undergone a number of refurbishments, none of the projects had tackled the Palais' key flaw - its weak foundations.

The building had shown increasing signs of instability and the authorities were finally forced to close its central hall in 1993 after a glass panel fell 45m from the Palais' huge steel dome.

During the restoration workers replaced 600 tonnes of bent beams and changed 15,000 rivets made from 'inferior quality' metal to restore the building to its former glory.

'This project was incredibly complex because we had to build a structure in the centre of the hall to lift the dome slightly off the walls in order to change the glass,' said Alain-Charles Perrot, the chief architect behind the renovations.

Now that the building has been restored, there are fresh rumours that French culture minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres wants to take the project further and build a new subterranean gallery and car park.

The building will officially open to the public on 17 September and is expected to reassume its original functions as a cultural centre in October.

It is also understand the Palais will host next year's spring fashion shows for luxury labels Chanel and Christian Dior.

by Richard Waite

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