From the modern to the exotic
In the towns, the Revolution, followed by the collapse of the plantation company and the abolition of slavery, was to result in the development of the architecture of the official buildings, symbols of power, in line with the changing course of history. Evidence of this can be found in the Prefecture in Saint-Denis: initially a secure store where the colonial administration stored goods and arms and also home to the governor of the island, the building deteriorated during the time of the Empire and the English occupation, before restoration work began in 1822 to give the building its current appearance: elevation on three levels, neo-classical façade, avant-corps crowned with a belvedere… The beautiful residences are also not to be missed: the Deramond and Carrère villas in Saint-Denis; the Orré and Adam de Villiers houses in Saint-Pierre. Saint-Pierre is still home to the town hall, itself also built on the foundations of the former colonial store, and a beautiful monument to the colonial construction typical of the 18th century, marked by the expertise of the boat-builders whose services were availed of for the construction of the buildings.
Returning to Saint-Denis, the architectural style of the 20th century is evident in several buildings, most notably the Central Post Office (1965) and the Department of Agriculture and Forestry (1970), both designed by the architect Jean Bossu, a member of the Le Corbusier studio. Wings at various heights, arranged one beneath the other (“scissors”, as Bossu called it) for the DRAF; a classic combination (a residential tower block, the first built on the island, and a low-rise office building) but reinterpreted with modern architectural codes accompanied by a touch of the exotic (a sun-breaker, the use of angles evoking the architecture of Algerian cities) for the Central Post Office: two fine examples that will not fail to pique the interest of any amateur architect. To visit the island with a view to discovering its heritage is in this respect to plan a journey that is a little bit out of the ordinary !