BNP Paribas forerunner banks began doing business in Nice as early as 1896, when the “Comptoir national d’escompte de Paris” (CNEP) took over the clientele of the “Banque générale des Alpes-maritimes” and set up in its offices in the “rue Gioffredo”. A few months later, CNEP leased a beautiful arcaded residential building now situated at 2 boulevard Victor-Hugo. Here is its story.
- The origins of 2 Boulevard Victor-Hugo, Nice (France)
The cession of the County of Nice to France in 1860 and the opening of the railway in 1864 led to a new urban expansion of Nice on the right bank of the Paillon River. Simultaneously, The Avenue, a landmark and fashionable promenade, was constructed. Shortly, the famed and tree-shaded thoroughfare was lined with hotels blessed by an enviable climate of mild winter sunny days.
- “Hôtel des Iles Britanniques” opens its doors on The Avenue
“Hôtel des Îles Britanniques” opens its doors under the ownership of two local investors who bought the plot from the City of Nice Almshouses in 1867. However, in the aftermath of the First World War, ageing grand hotels in town were facing fierce competition with the newly built seafront ones and The Avenue gradually turned into a commercial and office area. In 1920, the building was sold to the “Banque nationale de crédit”.
- “Banque nationale de crédit” builds its branch
The prolific Nice-born architect Charles Dalmas (1863-1938) was entrusted to remodel the hotel as a bank. For the façade, he drew his inspiration from the grandeur of Paris during the 18th century when the French architects Gabriel and Ledoux popularized the classical style praised by present bank architecture. For the inside, he faced three main challenges: building underground vaults, opening a large lobby, retaining the original structure of the façade to make the most of its exceptional height.
- BNP launches renovations in 1967
Commissioned to carry out the 1967 works, the architect André Aubert (1905-1987), faithful to his idea of ‘moderate modernism’ infusing his design for the “Palais de Tokyo” (Tokyo Palace – Museums of Modern Art) in Paris, cladded the ground–level façade with a peristyle of marble-covered square posts. The interior, including the furniture and lightning, was completely refurbished. The height of the main lobby was halved and its ceiling fitted with a “paralume” lampshade illuminated with neon strips.
- The façade showcases its classical lines
After architectural surveys were monitored by BNP Paribas experts in conjunction with the City of Nice planning department, a complete facelift was entrusted to the Artefact Studio Agency. Works began in 2011 and lasted for three years. The premises now meet today’s business needs as well as environmental standards, and the façade is restored to its 1920s splendour.