In 1873, French engineers and industry-men Panhard and Levassor opened the world’s first factory for gas-run automobiles in the heart the old industrial and ironworks district. The Great Mills of Paris were constructed between 1917 and 1921 by Georges Wybo, architect of the Haussman Printemps department store. In 1950, the concrete Flour Exchange, constructed by the architect Denis Honneger, protégé of Auguste Perret, was erected beside the mill to store the flour before it was refined. In 1996, the complex was still the largest mill in the world.
The neighborhood is now known as the ZAC Paris Left Bank whose redevelopment has been entrusted to the urban architect Christian de Portzamparc. He has proposed the concept of open islands, a mesh of buildings whose facades will be ‘sculpted’ by various architects. The complex includes a garden and a ‘city university’ that will inhabit the old industrial buildings: the Great Mills of Paris and the Flour Exchange, rehabilitated respectively by the architects Rudy Riccioti and Nicolas Michelin. The University Paris Diderot - Paris 7 will have waited a decade before finally relocating from the Juissieu site.