BNC built a headquarters right in the centre of Paris designed to showcase its expansion and dynamic attitude.
A bank that outgrew its premises
From the very beginning the new Banque Nationale de Crédit (BNC) was plagued by the problem of where to house its central administration. In July 1916, the bank took a 20-year lease on a building in Paris situated on the corner of 1 rue Le Peletier and 16 boulevard des Italiens which had previously housed the stockbrokers’ café Riche, where Emile Zola set a number of scenes from his novel L’Argent (‘Money’). Nevertheless, as the bank continued to expand, this building soon became too cramped for its purposes.
Prestigious, modern and avant-garde
In 1926 BNC commissioned the architect Joseph Marrast to build a headquarters to match its requirements and its status. This was an avant-garde choice: the neoclassical Art Deco style championed by the ‘Paris School’ at that time had not yet been applied to bank premises.
Built ‘with all the refinements of modern industry’, the new building on the boulevard des Italiens demonstrated the potential of the modern material known as reinforced concrete. The facades are abundantly decorated with ‘neo-Egyptian’ pilasters, which were then very much in vogue, and the interiors are decorated with stucco and coloured marble. Legend has it that an orchestra was specially brought over from New York to play on the roof at the inauguration…
At the heart of the Paris marketplace
This imposing building in the financial heart of the capital, which was completed in 1932, was intended to mark the breakthrough of BNC on the Paris market. It was however inaugurated by the Banque Nationale pour le Commerce et l’Industrie (BNCI), as BNC had in the meantime gone bankrupt. The building is often depicted on BNCI leaflets and advertising, and also on Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP) promotional materials, as BNP inherited the building at the time of the 1966 merger. Today it remains the registered head office of BNP Paribas. The Group’s operational headquarters is located at 3 rue d’Antin.