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September 24, 2013


Hôpital Lariboisière – A Soundwalk

by soundlandscapes

I ALWAYS THINK it’s better to visit a hospital out of curiosity rather than out of necessity. The other day it was curiosity that led me to the Hôpital Lariboisière in the 10th arrondissement a short step away from the Gare du Nord.


The Hôpital Lariboisière was born out of the cholera epidemic that hit Paris in 1832. The Hôtel Dieu, the oldest hospital in Paris, took the brunt of the epidemic and it is said that by the end of March 1832 every admission to the Hôtel Dieu was for cholera and practically no one was discharged.  Almost 20,000 souls died from the six-month epidemic.


L’Hôtel Dieu during the cholera epidemic 1832 – Painting by Alfred Johannot

Devastating though it was, the epidemic did produce some positive results. In the 19th century curing cholera was like clutching at straws so attention turned towards prevention rather than cure.  Major steps were taken to improve the city’s hygiene and by the time Baron Haussmann began rebuilding Paris in 1853 the hygienist movement had become the major force in urban planning. Slums were demolished, streets widened, the sewage system improved and a new hospital was built to serve the inhabitants on the Right Bank – the Hôpital Lariboisière.


The French architect, Martin-Pierre Gauthier, designed the new hospital based on the hygienist principles of providing plenty of light and air, a free flow of water and pavilions separated by galleries to prevent cross infection.  His design comprised six buildings arranged around a central courtyard connected by colonnaded walkways.


A bequest from Eliza Roy Comtesse de Lariboisière financed the building of the hospital. The Comtesse had no heirs and so she bequeathed her fortune to the City of Paris to create ‘un hospice pour les malades qui portera mon nom Hospice Lariboisière’. The Comtesse died on 27th December 1851 and on 29th July 1853 an Imperial decree confirmed that the hospital was to be named Hôpital Lariboisière, the name by which it’s still known today. The hospital was opened in 1854.


The tomb of the Comtesse de Lariboisière, designed by the Italian born French sculptor, Carlo Marochetti, rests in the hospital chapel.


Today, behind it’s 19th century façade, the Hôpital Lariboisière is a busy, modern hospital with around 1,000 beds.  Together with two other hospitals very close by, Hôpital Saint-Louis and Hôpital Fernand Widal, the Hôpital Lariboisière is part of the Groupe Hospitalier Universitaire Saint-Louis, Lariboisière, Fernand Widal, which together offer a comprehensive range of medical services.


I went to explore the Hôpital Lariboisière. I wandered through the gardens outside and along the quadrangle of long corridors inside on the ground floor, the arteries that lead to the ars medicina beyond.

Here are some of the sights and sounds I discovered.

Hôpital Lariboisière – A Soundwalk:










If you enjoyed this post you might like these as well:

The Hôtel Dieu – The Oldest Hospital in Paris

The Hôpital Salpêtrière … A personal view narrated by Adam from Invisible Paris

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Sep 24 2013

    Loved the crows at the beginning and the sound of a presumably female employee walking down a corridor into the distance!

    • Sep 26 2013

      Thanks Alastair. The crows outside somehow seem to provide a perfect counterpoint to the sounds inside. I really enjoy capturing the different sonic textures in places like this.

  2. Sep 24 2013

    Very interesting and evocative. The only thing you’re missing here is a helicopter. It’s quite impressive to see them come flying over the Gare du Nord and onto their rather precarious landing point on top of one of the more modern buildings on the site.

    • Sep 26 2013

      Thanks Adam. You have the better of me – I’ve yet to see a helicopter landing here but I shall certainly look out for one.

  3. hmunro
    Sep 24 2013

    Adam said it perfectly: Very interesting and evocative. It struck me today that — through your blog and your recordings — you’re not only preserving today’s sound, but quite a lot of yesterday’s history as well. Marvelous!

    • Sep 26 2013

      Thanks Heather. Yes, while the Parisian sounds are the centre-piece of each post I like to put them into context, both present and historical. I hope that the sounds help to bring the words and pictures to life.


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