The Palais de Chaillot comprises two curved wings leading down to the river Seine, and an open central area with an impressive view on the river Seine, the Eiffel tower, the Champs de Mars and the Ecole militaire. It was built for the International exhibition of arts and techniques of 1937, in place of the previous Palais du Trocadéro. The name “Trocadéro” still designates the square where the Palais de Chaillot stands. The Palais de Chaillot houses the Théâtre national de Chaillot, the Musée de l’Homme, the Musée de la Marine and the Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine.
The original building was erected for the 1878 Exposition universelle. Originally it was not supposed to outlast the Exposition. However, it was only finally destroyed and replaced by the present building for the 1937 Exposition. The gardens are the only part of the original building which is left today. In 1920, the government decided to use the place for the first Théâtre national populaire. In 1937, the present Palais de Chaillot was built based on the plans of the architects Léon Azéma, Jacques Carlu and Louis-Hippolyte Boileau. The theatre was inaugurated in 1939.
The Palais de Chaillot was built in the Art Deco style, with a predominance of geometrical shapes and rounded volumes, large windows and colonnades framing amazing perspectives and views. The furniture, ironworks and lights are all typical Art Déco decoration. The statues and paintings glorify Beaux Arts and cultural values.
After the Second World War, the Théâtre national de Chaillot became one of the most famous cultural centers in Paris with the TNP (Théâtre national populaire) and Jean Vilar. On two occasions, in 1948 and in 1951-52 the Palais de Chaillot hosted the Organisation of the United Nations. The Universal Human Rights Declaration was signed there on December the 10th 1948.
Nowadays, the Théâtre National de Chaillot is one of the five French National theatres (its missions are defined by the State). It is the first theatre to conduct a project based on dance art and dance activities.
Since 2011, Didier Deschamps, dancer, choreographer and teacher has been the director of the theatre.