Created to promote French architecture and showcase evolving trends, this vast institution (located in the Palais de Chaillot), includes a museum, a research facility, and a top-notch school of architecture. On the ground floor, the enormous Galerie des Moulages, with its vaulting skylights, exhibits casts of the gems of French architecture from the 12th to the 18th centuries. Commissioned in the late 19th century as a way of documenting France’s architectural heritage, the project turned out to be an invaluable tool when it came to restoring the ravages of two world wars. The cast of the beautiful Queen of Sheba, for example—the original of which graced the face of Reims cathedral—made it possible to create a faithful reproduction after the original was seriously damaged in World War I.
On the second floor, you’ll dip into the cool waters of 20th- and 21st-century architecture, represented by intricate architectural models of structures like Piano and Rogers’ Centre Pompidou and Rem Koolhaas’s Maison Lemoine, a three-layer home built in Floriac, France, for a paralyzed man and his family. Don’t miss clambering through a reconstruction of an apartment from Le Corbusier’s Cité Radieuse, a shockingly (for the late 1940s) modern approach to urban housing.