Saint-Etienne, the design in its soul

Cité du Design © Thierry Joly
Every two years, the Biennale du Design attracts to Saint-Etienne people from all over the world. But design is also part of the town’s daily life as the municipality promotes the creations of designers both in the streets and in stores.

[ Practical ]

Getting there
- By road
530 km from Paris on autoroutes A6 and A47 till Saint-Etienne.
- By train
TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon to Lyon Part Dieu then TER from Lyon Part Dieu to Saint-Etienne.
TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon to Saint-Etienne Chateaucreux.
The journey takes approximately 3 h.
- Hotels
Ibis Hôtel and Novotel Saint-Etienne gare Chateaucreux
Hôtel Les Poteaux Carrés
Hôtel Continental
- Bed and Breakfast
La Belle Etoile
Le Vert Galant
A la Table des Lys
Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain
Rue Fernand Léger, 42270 Saint-Priest-en-Jarez
Tel : 0477795252
Open every day except Tuesday from 10am to 6pm.
Admission : €6.50 / €5.
Musée d’Art et d’Industrie
2 place Louis Comte, 42026 Saint-Etienne.
Open every day except Monday from 10am to 6pm.
Admission : €6.50 / €5.
Tel : 0477497300
Musée des Verts
14 rue Paul et Pierre Guichard, 42028 Saint-Etienne.
Open every day except Monday from 2pm to 6pm.
Admission : €7.
Good to know
The Saint-Etienne City Card gives access to public transports and museums.
- Saint-Etienne Métropole Tourist Office
Tel : 0477493900
In Saint-Etienne, the time for coal mining and weapons production has passed. The pulse of the city now beats to the rhythm of design. An internationally recognized reconversion and UNESCO has granted to the town the «Creative City of Design» label distinguishing those placing creativity and industries related to this field at the heart of their development. A very exclusive club that has only some forty members and Saint-Etienne is the only French representative, rubbing shoulders with metropolises such as Shanghai, Seoul, Buenos Aires, Turin, Helsinki and Nagoya.

Entrance Cité du Design © T.Joly
 City of Design
Formerly the industrial flagship and economic hub of the town, the Manufacture Nationale d'Armes has given way to the Cité du Design. Created in 2005, this institution is dedicated to teaching, research, dissemination, awareness-raising and promotion of this discipline. Nowadays, researchers, start-ups, classrooms, residences and workshops for students and artists occupy the former buildings of the Manufacture for some classified historical monuments. Besides, in 2009, a building with a unique and remarkable architecture was erected in its main courtyard. Called La Platine, it has neither interior walls nor pillars, although it stretches over 6,000 m2, while outside walls and roof are covered with a mix combination of opaque panels, extra-clear or colored glass panels and photovoltaic cells allowing to precisely control and dim light, insulation and ventilation at any desired location.

La Platine © T.Joly
 Futuristic building
It is the work of famous German and Italian architects Finn Geipel and Giulia Andi who also created the 32 m high Observatory Tower which stands next to it and gives a superb panoramic view of the Cité du Design and its surroundings. Home to a matériauthèque, a material library containing samples of over a thousand materials used in construction and decoration, an agora, exhibition halls, a media library, a restaurant, a large auditorium and a greenhouse where tree ferns grow, La Platine is the epicenter and nerve center of the Biennial of Design, an event attracting professionals and design enthusiasts from around the world who come to attend conferences, visit exhibitions and so on.

Wine bar © Ville de Saint-Etienne
 Design along the streets and in stores
On this occasion, the Municipality proposes to French and foreign designers to install in the town’s streets and squares urban furniture they have just created or market for less than two years. An operation called "Bancs d’Essais". Based on the comments of the inhabitants, it then acquires the most appreciated and thirty of these works are now visible throughout the town making Saint-Etienne a true open-air museum of design. Especially since the Municipality also incite shopkeepers to hire interior décorators and designers to refurbish their stores, bars or restaurants. To reward them, every two years it selects the ten it considers as the most successful and once again asks inhabitants to vote for their favorites. A good publicity stunt for the chosen shops.

Saint-Etienne © T.Joly
 Become a designer for a day
One of the most renowned in France, the town’s Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art also boasts a remarkable collection of masterpieces of design. And the rich collections of weapons, cycles and ribbons from the Museum of Art and Industry give the opportunity to see what was design in the past. But Saint-Etienne does not only offer you to contemplate examples of design. You can also practice this discipline and show your creative talent with designers holding fun and participatory workshops for young and old alike. Let’s name the Atelier Regards, Captain Ludd and Ça Frézille. Finally, if you love football, do not leave the city without paying a visit to the museum recalling the great moments of the local team that in the 70s dominated the French championship and was one of the best in Europe.

December 06, 2019
Thierry Joly