In the French capital's 16 th arrondissement, the Palais de Chaillot rises magnificently above the historic Square of Freedom and Human Rights. Designed by architects Léon Azéma, Jacques Carlu and Louis-Hyppolite Boileau for the 1937 International Exhibition of Art and Technology in Modern Life, this huge building with its beautiful neoclassical façade occupies the site of the former Palais du Trocadéro of 1878.
Commissioned by the exhibition organising committee, the four inscriptions incised on the pediment of the palace adopt a typeface created specifically for the purpose by Paul Valery, a great admirer of the entire project. Since the exhibition aim was to promote the "spirit of peace", these four phrases are a kind of dedication to the beauty of the building and the ingenuity of humanity.
The Palais de Chaillot was then intended to be the official showcase for 1930s creativity, with 40 sculptors, 20 painters and an artisan metalworker selected and appointed to work on the interiors and exteriors of the palace and breathe life into one of the most iconic monuments of the French capital.
As a symbol of liberty, this historic location would also have a role to play during the Second World War. It was here in 1940 that the Réseau du Musée de l’Homme (Museum of Humanity Network) led by Paul Rivet would emerge as one of the first French resistance cells of the German occupation. This secret organisation formed by Yvonne Oddon, Boris Vildé and Anatole Lewitsky succeeded in setting up two escape networks, collecting military intelligence and publishing Résistances, the magazine whose five issues published between 1940 and 1941 were printed in the museum basement.
It was also here in the Palais de Chaillot that the Universal Declaration on Human Rights was adopted by the General Council of the United Nations in 1948.
Today, this building with so many important historical resonances is home to the Musée de l’Homme (Museum of Humanity), the Musée National de la Marine (National Naval Museum), the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine (City of Architecture and Heritage) and the Théâtre National de Chaillot (Chaillot National Theatre).
Overlooking the valley of the Seine in the Passy wing of the Palais de Chaillot, the Café de l’Homme was opened in 2004. After a five-year total renovation and upgrading project, the restaurant reopened in November 2015.