Japanese architects to convert iconic Paris building

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Japanese architecture firm Sanaa, winners of the prestigious Pritzker prize, will plan the conversion of iconic Parisian department store La Samaritaine to other uses, its owners announced Thursday.

The firm, founded by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, is to present plans by the end of the year for converting the art deco building into a complex of shops, flats, offices and a hotel, owners LVMH said in a statement.

The store, once the biggest in Paris in terms of floor space, occupies a prime site overlooking the Seine river in central Paris.

It was closed down in 2005 after police found it had antiquated electrical circuits, malfunctioning smoke extraction systems and inflammable wooden flooring.

Originally opened in 1869, La Samaritaine - or "La Samar" as it was also known to Parisians - was long known as a place where people could find anything and everything. However the last 15 years saw a drastic decline in sales.