Île Seguin

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Île Seguin (Seguin Island) is an island on the Seine river between Boulogne-Billancourt and Sèvres, in the west suburbs of Paris, France. It has a surface area of approximately 11.5 hectares (28 acres), and is positioned opposite Meudon, a short distance downstream from the Île Saint-Germain. Administratively Meudon and the island are included as part of Boulogne-Billancourt, on the river's right bank, rather than of Sèvres on the left bank.

Seguin Island in 2011

During most of the twentieth century, Île Seguin was home to a Renault factory, covering virtually the whole island. The last car from the Renault production line was a 1992 Renault 5 Supercinq. The factory remained dormant until 2005 when all the buildings were demolished.

The architect Jean Nouvel is leading a project to turn the island into a cultural hub.

the former Renault factory

Coordinates: 48°49′25.61″N 2°13′59.67″E / 48.8237806°N 2.2332417°E / 48.8237806; 2.2332417

History[edit]

Before Renault[edit]

Before the seventeenth century the island was owned by the Abbey of St. Victor and the land was cultivated by tenant farmers.

The island's importance received a sudden boost at the end of the seventeenth century with the construction of a Palace at nearby Versailles, because it was positioned along the route that connected the new palace with Paris. The road was much frequented by itinerant aristocrats. In 1747 the palace builder's grandson, Louis XV, acquired the island - then known as the "Île de Sève", on behalf of his daughters.[1] The island found itself renamed as the "Île Madame", and during the pre-revolutionary decades it was home to a commercial laundry, the "Buanderie de Sèvres".

Under the revolutionary government the laundry was nationalised and the island fell under direct state control.[2] In 1793, briefly, it was owned by a banker called Jean-Baptiste Vandenyver, but he was guillotined a few months later.[2] Control of the island was then disputed, in the broader context of the redrawing of the Paris city limits, between the three municipalities/districts of Sèvres, Issy and Auteuil. In 1794 the island was acquired by the entrepreneurial chemist, Armand Seguin, from whom it takes its name. Seguin became extremely rich, in part by using his island to construct a factory applying a new approach to tanning leather, on an industrial scale.[2] The island also continued to be home to laundry businesses.

During the closing decades of the nineteenth century, while retaining its industrial businesses, the island also became a leisure destination, used for recreational boating, clay pigeon shooting and angling.[2]

The Renault factory[edit]

Louis Renault, a founder and the energetic hands-on owner of the "Société des Automobiles Renault", was one of several major automakers to have expanded production (of military supplies) and to have prospered during the war. At this point he already controlled factories on both banks of the river, and in 1919 he acquired the Île Seguin in the middle of it.

Renault built his first factory on the island between 1929 and 1934. For the rest of the twentieth century the island's history would be the history of the Renault plant. The factory was self-sufficient, with its own electric power generation facilities and several testing sites including an underground test track. Infrastructure also included dock facilities necessary for taking delivery of bulk supplies and for transporting finished automobiles by river. Billancourt became France's largest factory, employing more than 30,000 people. During the Second World War the factory, which was at this time being used to produce trucks for the Germans, was an easy target for bomber pilots using the River Seine to navigate, and suffered from several destructive allied bombings attacks. Renault himself was accused of collaboration directly after the war, and in the frenzied atmosphere of retribution that characterized the post-liberation period he died in prison under suspicious circumstances, and without benefiting from the trial which had been intended for him. His company was placed under the direction of a well-connected resistance hero, and then, on 15 January 1945 nationalised and renamed "Régie nationale des usines Renault (RNUR)"

France had missed out on the economic recovery that had boosted prosperity in Britain and Germany during the 1930s, but she participated fully in the sustained post-war boom that got going in the 1950s. The Renault plant on the Île Seguin became, at this time, a beacon for the growth and modernisation of French industry, reflecting the success of models such as the Renault 4CV launched in 1947, which would be the first French car to break through the "one million" threshold. The factory also continued to justify its reputation, established during the turbulence of the mid-1930s, as a bastion of trades union militancy, notably being closed down by a 33 day strike during the "Événements"("Events") of May 1968.

Growth in the 1950s and 1960s enabled Renault to open several newer car plants on greenfield sites in France, Spain and, later, further afield. Rising wages, union militancy (especially in the big car plants of the Paris region) and high employment taxes encouraged the French auto-industry to become a pioneer of automated vehicle assembly and the Billancourt factory, designed for an era of labor-intensive production processes, was hard to adapt to the new techniques. Renault announced in 1989 that the factory would close and Billancourt's last car, a Renault Supercinq, emerged on 31 March 1992. A major clean-up of the buildings began almost at once, but the challenge was formidable, especially with regard to the necessary asbestos removal and soil decontamination. Destruction of the factory buildings began only on 29 March 2004, and was completed on 8 March 2005.

References[edit]

  1. ^ chronologie de l'île Seguin, sur lemonde.fr
  2. ^ a b c d Île Seguin, histoire (inachevée) d'une longue gestation, de Vincent Renard, CNRS-Polytechnique, décembre 2001.

Davies, Lizzie (2009-07-08). "Life after Renault: Ile Seguin to become Paris culture hub". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-08-24. 

Palk, Susannah (2010-10-14). "Jean Nouvel to build arts complex on derelict island in Seine". CNN. Retrieved 2010-10-14.