The Pier :
The Railway arrived at Tours in 1846. A station is built along Heurteloup Boulevard. It was nicknamed l”Embarcadère” (the Pier). The center of the facade was decorated with ionic columns (see photo below).
However, it quickly proves insufficient to cope with the growth of passenger traffic. It was destroyed in 1895, to be replaced by the current station which was built from 1896 to 1898.
The « Embarcadère » (former railway station of the Paris-Orléans company)
The current station :
The new station (see photo below) is built back from the old, which allowed to create a vast esplanade in front of it.
The SNCF railway station of Tours is very representative of the architecture of the big French stations of the end of the 19th century.
It has two particularities: :
This station is a “cul de sac”. Arriving trains must leave in the opposite direction. This particularity, astonishing for a central city like Tours, led the authorities to consider moving it several times.
This Station is a work of art. Indeed, few are considered as “beautiful” stations. The Tours Station, characterized by its architecture, elegance and small touches of history, is one of these exceptions.
It is composed of 4 materials, stone, iron, glass and cast iron, and is dominated by 4 statues that evoke the old axes Bordeaux, Toulouse, Limoges, and Nantes.
This superb building is the work of the famous architect Victor Laloux Touraine, originally also the beautiful City Hall of Tours, the station of Orsay, and the Basilica of Saint Martin. The interior is also worth seeing with a beautiful roof that has just been redone.
The construction of the train station in Tours was the opportunity to achieve the merger of two stations, managed by two different companies, and serving separate lines :
that of the Paris-Orléans links (the Embarcadère, see above)
the one that linked Tours to the Ocean (Les Sables d’Olonne)
LeThe merger of these two stations is symbolized by the two majestic twin entry gates.
- THE RHINOCEROS (between the station and the « studio »)
The statue of the White Rhinoceros in front of the Gare de Tours
Hey no, the strange White Rhinoceros that you will notice from the train station is not an invention of the Mac Donald’s restaurant located just behind to catch the eye and the barge!
This original but realistic statue is a work of art. It was realized by a touraine artist, Michel Audiard, and was installed on December 17, 2013.
This imposing statue, laminated resin to better capture the light, is over 4m long.
This Rhinoceros recalls that of Henri-Alfred Jacquemart (1878) installed on the forecourt of the station (Museum) of Orsay. This station is, indeed, like that of Tours due to the architect Victor Laloux.
Rhinoceros of the Orsay Museum (Jacquemart, 1878) White rhinoceros
About the White Rhinoceros :
The white rhino is the largest species of rhinoceros.
The white rhinoceros is about 4 m long, and a little less than 2m at the withers (the work of Michel Audiard is therefore realistic from this point of view). Its long horn measures on average 90 cm. The longest ever measured measured 1.5 m !
Its weight can exceed 3,5 tons. It can reach 45 km / h in top speed, and live up to 45 years.
- THE INTERNATIONAL VINCI CONGRESS CENTER (in front of the train station) :
The convention center of Tours (exterior, interior)
The choice of location by the mayor of Tours in the late 1980s :
The train station and the Palais des Congrès are facing each other, in the center of Tours, in a large open space which also includes the Gare Routière, the central point of the new Tramway, at the end of the Charles Gille and Bordeaux streets (pedestrian street and very commercial from the city), as well as a large underground car park (located under the square).
Place de la Gare (known as Place du General Leclerc) is the city’s main communication hub. It is also close to the most sought-after commercial areas of the city (national street, rue de Bordeaux, …), the main administrative sites of the city (city hall, courthouse, prefecture, …), and many religious sites (Saint Gatien cathedral, …) or cultural (Opera, …).
The choice of the Gare district was therefore logical, when the mayor of Tours at the time, Jean Royer, decided in the late 80s to take advantage of the arrival of the TGV, which put Tours at only 1 hour Paris, to make its city a pole of business tourism.
Jean Royer considered, however, in a first time the construction of a new station and the transformation of that of Laloux Convention Center. He decided, however, finally, the construction of a new building facing the station, on the other side of the esplanade.
The work and the official opening :
30 months of work were needed to build this building, which develops 26,000 m² of usable space including three auditoriums of 2000, 700 and 350 seats. It is high on 5 levels, connected by stairs and escalators. An incident marked the end of the project. 200 m² of interior ceilings collapse, indeed, in April 1993, fortunately only two minor injuries.
The Vinci is finally inaugurated on September 17, 1993. Its original architecture evokes that of a ship.
The balance sheet :
The architectural success of the project is the subject of a certain unanimity. However, the amount, poorly controlled project is criticism. Indeed, the cost of the project rose from 320 million francs initially estimated to more than 710 million francs, thus contributing to digging the debt of the city.
However, the construction of this congress center has allowed Tours to remain one of France’s leading meeting and congress venues.
Tours has, indeed, a certain tradition of famous congress city. The best-known example of the first half of the 20th century is that of the famous Congress of Tours of 1920, which led to the split of the SFIO and the birth of the French Communist Party..