La Rochelle City Hall - Oldest in France, Fully Restored

Since the creation of the town of La Rochelle in 1298, its town hall has been housed in the same premises, and it is thus the oldest town hall in France still in service. In a flamboyant Gothic and Renaissance style, it stands out among the most emblematic buildings of the city with its crenellated surrounding wall, its corner turrets or its watchtower displaying the ceramic statue of Henri IV.

Public areas with all-glass automatic sliding doors.

Public areas with all-glass automatic sliding doors. © Aline Nédélec / GEZE GmbH

The arcades path towards the entrance.

The arcades path towards the entrance. © Aline Nédélec / GEZE GmbH

Over time and history, the town hall has largely deteriorated. In 1861, it is listed as an historical monument and undergoes a thorough restoration to rebuild some of the original elements and to carry out necessary transformations and extensions. Recently, the town hall of La Rochelle knows a second important transformation. On June 28, 2013, a fire breaks out and spreads to all the roofs of the historic part and the structure of the building collapses.

The reconstruction work is of large scale, given the extent of the damage and the heritage value of the site. The challenge is twofold: to restore the listed parts to their original condition and, to adapt the areas open to the public for a more accessible and functional building, that meets safety and accessibility standards. Led by the chief architect of the Monuments Historiques, Philippe Villeneuve - in charge of the restoration of Notre-Dame, the work lasts nearly 6 years.

The inner courtyard, with an open gallery, shaped with richly decorated arcades, gives access to the entrance of the town hall. The public areas are now clear and bright with the installation of all-glass automatic sliding doors in the reception area, which facilitate access for visitors, especially those with reduced mobility.

From the entrance, the reception desk is set behind an all-glass door, for a bright and light result.

From the entrance, the reception desk is set behind an all-glass door, for a bright and light result. © Aline Nédélec / GEZE GmbH

GEZE Slimdrive SL NT automatic doors have been installed in the entrance area: one behind the original door, that has been kept in the façade, to access the hall from the outside; then, an all-glass double automatic sliding door, framed between fixed parts, also made of glass, leads to the reception. The sleek stainless steel fittings (GGS) meet the high design standards for an overall glass result with maximum transparency and lightness. Then, 2 automatic doors give access to the administrative areas reserved for the staff of the city hall: one with an access control system connected to the GEZE Slimdrive single-leaf automatic door; and a second one serves as a one-way exit, from the offices to the reception area. "Identical, but new," as announced by the Mayor of La Rochelle at the reopening of the city hall in December 2019. The three days of festivities that followed, testify to the deep attachment of the city of La Rochelle and its inhabitants for their city hall, which is also the most visited monument in La Rochelle.