Demolition of ‘Marie Curie’ site on hold in Paris amid heritage debate

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© WikiCommons / Henri Manuel

France’s culture minister said Friday that the demolition of a site linked to pioneering radioactivity researcher Marie Curie would be put on hold. This after several prominent figures called for its preservation in the name of heritage.

The Curie Institute will “suspend demolition of the Pavillon des Sources to take the time to look at… any possible alternative,” Culture Minister Rima Abdul Malak wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Critics of the demolition say two-time Nobel winner Marie Curie worked in a laboratory in the building, while its proponents dispute this.

A cancer-fighting foundation, the Curie Institute wants to build a 2,000-square metre five-storey research centre at the site in Paris’ touristy Latin Quarter.

It would be “the first centre for cancer-related chemical biology in Europe” and “an indispensable scientific project”, Curie Institute chief Thierry Philip told French news agency AFP.

He added that he had had a “calm exchange on the complex debate” with minister Abdul Malak “on a question of memory that stokes so much emotion today”. Choice between memory and living science

If no “alternative solution” can be found, “we will have to calmly make a decision between memory and living science,” Philip said.

Figures including television presenter Stephane Bern and conservative former minister Rachida Dati launched the debate around the Pavillon des Sources into the public eye.

It would be a “serious mistake” to destroy the building, Bern wrote on social media platform X this week.

He called on President Emmanuel Macron to defend it as an important aspect of French heritage.

“It is not extraordinary architecture, but it is a symbolic, memorial heritage,” he declared on Thursday on France Culture radio.

Philip said that the Pavillon des Sources was not a laboratory used by Curie, but rather served to store radioactive waste and today stands empty.

Her actual laboratory, the Curie pavilion, is not in danger of being demolished, he said.

Meanwhile, Marc Joliot, the great-grandson of Marie Curie and director of research at the Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies Commission (CEA) says he is in favour of building the new scientific research centre.

“I am a fervent defender of the scientific project,” Joliot told France Info on Saturday, adding he “would have liked to keep this building” but cancer research is “extraordinarily important”.

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