Each studio, a former refrigerator compartment, comes fully insulated (the sound separation is enviable) and secured with a bolted door.
Les Frigos, a former ice manufacturing plant, reads like a squat, but operates like a thriving commercial complex. Situated steps from Dominique Perrault’s gloomy Bibliothèque Nationale and the new Passerelle Simone de Beauvoir that connects Paris’s Left Bank to the Parc de Bercy, les Frigos is planted in a transforming urban context, and stands in stark opposition to the anonymous glass and steel office buildings that have mushroomed throughout the quarter.
Since the 17th century the area (now a part of the 13th arrondissement) was a predominantly industrial zone. With prevailing winds blowing east, smoke stacks and other industrial nuisances tended to drift toward this urban edge, preserving the air quality for the center and helping desirable real-estate burgeon on the western periphery.
In its industrial heyday the building was known as the La gare Frigorifique de Paris-Ivry, and it plugged directly in to the Paris-Orléans rail line. Trains would pull in at ground level. The factory produced ice, and perishable were warehoused in the commercial refrigerators before making their way to the city’s central market (or stomache) – Les Halle de Paris. By the late sixties, however, building was out of commission. Les Halles de Paris had shut down, and city’s warehouses moved to Rungis.
Consequently, the refrigeration facility, then owned by the French transportation department the SNCF, was abandoned. It remained unused for close to fifteen years. Not until the 1980’s did artists begin to rent spaces for work and exhibition. Occupants of the building like to stress that contrary to appearances Les Frigos is anything but a squat. It is a highly organized association invests in the projected development of its real estate.
Les Frigos is full to capacity. In a city where space is an unequivocal luxury, les Frigos is now an unattainable find. Each studio, a former refrigerator compartment, comes fully insulated (the sound separation is enviable) and secured with a bolted refrigerator door. The circulation is open to experimentation – and every surface is covered in tags and graphic appliqué.
Les Frigos hosts a number of open door events, when the public is invited to see work displayed creative work displayed on the site of its production. Crowds filter through the building during these events.