Quartier de la Gare, La Poste, Rouen Right BankQuartier de la Gare, La Poste, Rouen Right Bank
©Quartier de la Gare, La Poste, Rouen Right Bank|Benoit Eliot

Art-deco architecture

Discover the most beautiful buildings of Art Deco architecture in Rouen by walking between the station district and the city center. Beyond the more than 2,000 medieval half-timbered houses, Rouen also has listed buildings and monuments with Art Deco architecture, particularly in the Right Bank SNCF station district.


The station area

Art Deco is an artistic movement characteristic of the 1920s, whose landmark date is 1925, the year of the Exposition Universelle des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. This movement will end at the beginning of the Second World War in 1939. Conceived as a response to Art Nouveau, the Art Deco movement in Rouen and around the world was characterized by the rejection of right angles for corner buildings, the choice of bow windows and the use of disparate materials. Interior and exterior ornamentation saw the appearance of floral (Art Deco ornament par excellence) and geometric motifs, porthole windows and pediments.

This return to geometric forms under the influence of Cubism inspired many interiors and exterior buildings.

If you arrive in Rouen by train, you can admire the Right Bank Station and its eclectic architecture sometimes called Late Art Nouveau. Its originality lies in the fact that its construction lasted fifteen years, between 1913 and 1928, which explains its hybrid style halfway between Nineteenth Century Classicism, Art Nouveau and Art Deco.

The concrete vaults of the ceiling of the Salle des pas perdus, but also the rear part of the station are architectural elements not to be missed. Soberly decorated, the facade of the station made of ashlar is decorated with plant decor and statues of workers. Its rounded shape recalls the curves of the Art Nouveau.

Visible from afar with its copper clock tower culminating at thirty-four meters high, the station is a gateway for many visitors. It provides access to many typical 1930s buildings scattered throughout the neighborhood, such as the Immeuble de la Poste at the top of Rue Jeanne d’Arc. It is the ideal starting point to begin a discovery of Art Deco in Rouen.

The Metropole, a timeless building

A few steps from the train station, at the corner of rue Verte and rueJeanne d’Arc, discover the magnificent building called “Le Métropole“. This building, designed by Parisian architect Emile Bois, is built on a triangular plot that gives it its distinctive look. Its reinforced concrete frame is covered with a stone skin that reflects the sunlight. The façade plays on the opposition of the verticality of the straight lines and the curves of the floral motifs of the pediments. This unique and typical place of the Art Deco in Rouen is not to be missed.

However, the building is best known thanks to the café “Le Métropole” installed on the first floor. This establishment, designed by Etienne Villette, is known for its preserved 1930s atmosphere, but also its history.

Two of the café’s regulars between 1932 and 1936 were none other than Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. The couple made the Metropole café their headquarters, as Simone de Beauvoir even noted in her book La Force de l’Âge.

On the square, nearby, there was a red café, the Metropole, where I had breakfast.

The café “The Metropole” still testifies to the spirit of the interwar period through its furniture and architecture. The interior decoration is very sober, on the ceiling the chandeliers are in the center of domes, on the floor is a multicolored mosaic typical of the first half of the twentieth century. The entire building and interior decoration of the cafe is registered Historic Monuments.

In the middle of the cafe, near the counter, sit two busts representing Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, as a reminder of their moments spent in this place.

A surprising pharmacy

Direction to Place de la Cathédrale in the city’s historic center. Located across from the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Rouen is the center’s Grand Pharmacy, which does not go unnoticed. Built in 1925 by Rouen architect, Fernand Hamelet, this Art Deco pharmacy remains one of his signature works.

Directly opposite the central portal of the Cathedral and located next to the Finance Office, the architect opted for an assumed modernism. The concrete façade is covered by decorative tiles giving a pink marble effect. The originality lies mainly in the abundance of decorations due to the master ironworker, Raymond Subes. In particular, the imposing balcony and window grills that take up the arms of Rouen and Normandy.

Despite deep modifications in 1963 that saw the destruction of the interior and the facade of the first floor, this pharmacy remains one of the most beautiful Art Deco achievements in Rouen.

An Art Deco church in Rouen

Head east of the city to discover an unusual place: the Saint-Nicaise church.

Majorly destroyed by fire in 1934, only the apse and choir remain of the original Gothic church. A few months after the disaster, it was two genius architects who took it upon themselves to rebuild the church in a contemporary style. They are Emile Gaillard and Pierre Chirol.

They graft on the remains of the sixteenth century, a reinforced concrete nave and a bell tower of monumental dimensions. The lines and ornaments are architectural elements that make this religious building, a place not to be missed in a journey Art Deco in Rouen.

The church, now desacralized, is closed and remains awaiting a massive restoration. But its facade and the openwork spire of the bell tower, very richly decorated and enhanced with statues, themselves made of reinforced concrete, are worth a visit. In the summer, a temporary bar appears in the garden that borders the building. It allows you to enjoy a craft beer or juice, while taking advantage of the clean lines of the building and the Art Deco stained glass windows that light up at night.

Art Deco buildings in Rouen

In addition to the must-see places mentioned above, continue your visit to Art Deco in Rouen by strolling through buildings, houses and architectural details, representative of this artistic trend.

At 45 rue Jeanne d’Arc, the Hôtel des Postes dating from 1938 is indicative of pre-war modernism. The taste for modernity is announced by the presence of the Rouen sheep, framed by an ocean liner and a train, above the entrance.

Other interesting buildings include the former Manufrance retail business (located at the corner of rue Lecanuet and rue Beauvoisine) or the residential building on rue Molière. Its red brick facade and geometric patterns are symbolic of social housing of the Art Deco period.