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The Institute of Hispanic Studies: Renovating an historic site in the heart of Paris

The Institute of Hispanic Studies (IEH), an internationally recognized reference for Hispanic-American culture, teaching and research, is now at the heart of a renovation project led by Sorbonne University and its foundation. 

The history of the IEH began in 1917, when the University of Paris decided to open a department dedicated to Hispanic language and culture within its Faculty of Arts and Humanities. The development of modern languages at the university was encouraged by a desire for modernization and pedagogical innovation based on internationalization. Because it addresses the strategic importance of cultural diplomacy, the IEH has also benefited from the active support of the Spanish Embassy since its inception.

Thanks to this support and financial patronage, the IEH inaugurated its own building in 1929 at 31 rue Gay Lussac, in the fifth arrondissement of Paris. Nicknamed by the press as the "Mecca of international Hispanism," the institute generated a remarkable level of scientific, intellectual and cultural influence in the 1930s. 

"In the hundred years of its existence, the IEH has become intertwined with a whole part of the history of Iberian and Latin American studies in the French academic world, whose evolution has itself also followed the history of the Iberian Peninsula and Latin America. Honoring this tradition, the building now welcomes Hispanic students from the undergraduate to the doctoral level. Today, it is internationally recognized as a leading French university where expertise in teaching and research in Foreign Languages, Literatures and Civilizations (LLCE) shines." - Nancy Berthier, university professor at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at Sorbonne University and director of the IEH project.

Extending the historical project

In order to absorb the baby boom generation of students, the building underwent successive renovations and refurbishments. These renovations, which date back nearly 60 years, transformed the building's original appearance, starting with the destruction of the emblematic original Art Nouveau façade. 

With the goal of restoring the institute to its former grandeur and beauty, Sorbonne University and its foundation are now carrying out a three-year renovation project of the building. After more than 100 years of existence, it is now a question not only of representing the Hispanic character that extends to all Portuguese and Spanish-speaking countries, but also of making the IEH a place of international intersection of Iberian and Latin American culture. 

Driven by the desire to achieve the historical ambition of the institute, an ambitious architectural project was born, to match its history and the influence of Sorbonne University. 

Façade initiale, 1929 / Façade actuelle / Projet architectural. Crédits : Agence Bigoni Mortemard

Supported by the Sorbonne University Foundation, the renovation of the building will allow the IEH to bring together specialists from around the world and thus develop training and research at the highest level.

"This project will reinvigorate the link between France and the Hispanic and Portuguese-speaking world, which includes more than 700 million people who share humanist values and thoughts thanks to their common history and roots. Sorbonne University, through this renovation project, wishes to revitalize these relations by providing a place for research and training, where meetings, symposiums and seminars will be organized, right in the heart of Paris; and in the image of the cultural, educational and intellectual ties woven between the communities.” - Alfonso Gajate, ambassador of the Sorbonne University Foundation. 

The Sorbonne University Foundation

The Sorbonne University Foundation works to develop concrete solutions to major societal issues and uphold the academic influence of Sorbonne University. It acts in favor of the national and international appeal of the university, of the full mobilization of its community, including its graduates, and of an increased synergy with the economic world.

Would you like to support the renovation project as an individual? Donate to the Sorbonne University Foundation.  

Are you part of a company, foundation or an endowment fund who wishes to take part in the Institute of Hispanic Studies renovation project? Contact us: fondation@sorbonne-universite.fr