Tuesday, September 24, 2013


When architects travel, we need to keep in mind that we aren't travelling as tourists, we are travelling to see and learn and appreciate. It manifests itself in little ways- where most people take photos of art in museums, we photograph the structure and the floorplans printed on the walls, for example. But it's kind of hard to be an architect in Paris. It is such a huge city with so much history and surprisingly not as much modern architecture. So you can go to Berlin and see museums and embassies and lots of new construction, where in Paris you really are limited to a few select bits. Also, there just isn't much ROOM in Paris to build, because there is such a strong emphasis on preservation of the old.

On Monday, we started our day at the Centre Pompidou. We arrived after a half hour walk on the back side, where all of the colored pipes scream at you like a Willy Wonka factory.


Centre Pompidou was designed by Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano. The idea was to create something modern, in order to be an icon for a "new French style", to combat the historic streets around it. In class, we learn that all of the mechanical elements and most of the structure has been pulled to the exterior of the building, so that the gallery space inside has nothing inside of it.

The circulation is pulled to the exterior, too. So the escalator you ride up to get to the exhibition floors gives you GREAT views of the city


Some young architects did a renovation to the restaurant at the top of the museum

I was surprised to find out though that, actually, there's a lot of stuff going on inside the building. The structural joists are massive and low hanging, and they march down the space at regular intervals. It's interesting to compare a building you're seeing with what you learned.

We headed to the Parc de la Vilette in the afternoon. It was designed by Bernard Tschumi, and was one of the two buildings I studied during Second Year that made me officially decide I wanted to be an architect. It's a large expansive park with 48 red "folies" arranged in a grid around the park. Each folie is a geometric thingie (a technical term) in the landscape- some are buildings, some are sculptural. But I really liked it. I loved how the red of the folies contrasted so nicely with the blue sky and the green grass.

Some big folies, some small folies


There was a wooden sculpture up on display, too

I like how this one interacts with the building!

Hanna, Rebecca, and I then headed out to visit Notre Dame and the Louvre. The museum was already closed when we got there, but we were able to walk around the lobby and the mall. Oh yeah, there's a mall in the Louvre. And a McDonald's.

Notre Dame!

Pika pi.

The inside is actually rather dark. My camera does great in low light settings, so don't let it fool you. The cathedral was very dimly lit and everything just felt cold and oppressive. Very different from the cathedral we visited in Troyes.

I think I actually prefer the cathedral in Troyes to Notre Dame. I know I don't have any photos of it to compare to, but the one in Troyes was brighter and felt taller and just more inviting. Also it was much less crowded

I have yet to find a "completed" Gothic Cathedral. Most of the (as you can see) are missing at least one tower, and none of them have the final spires. The spires are supposed to add almost twice as much onto the height of the churches. But what would typically happen is the church would run out of money and construction would stop, so the last bits never got added on.

Stained glass!

Inside the glass pyramid at the Louvre

Mmm, stairs :)

Heiner made a joke that Parisians and Texans are always fighting to make the biggest buildings. Everything is bigger in Paris. The malls, the museums, the plazas, the churches, all of them are HUGE.

We visited the Saint Genevieve library and the Pantheon on Tuesday, and were set loose surprisingly early. Usually Heiner will let us go around 2 or 3, but that day, we were done essentially at 10:30. When you're faced with that much time and the responsibility to fill it with architecture, things can get a little stressful. We were trying to decide what on earth to do with our time. A small group went off to the gardens at Versaille, but I was trying to meet up with my cousin Joanna at 5, and knew I wouldn't have enough time. So Hanna, Rebecca, Isaac, Lindsey and I headed towards the Opera and the Galerie Lafayette, which is France's largest department store.

We studied this library in school- the steel columns and arches were cutting edge technology back in the day. It makes the space light, bright, and airy, without needing super thick columns. You wouldn't see something like this today, because of fire protection and other lame things.

Desks on desks on desks

The corinthian columns on the Pantheon

Apparently, the Capitol in DC is very similar to the Pantheon. 

We didn't want to pay 6 euro for the tour of the inside of the Opera, so that was kind of a bust. And we split off into groups in the store and made plans to meet back up in an hour and a half, but were finished in about thirty minutes. We are not big designer label appreciators.

The opera!

The dome in the Galerie!

So, I broke off on my own (GASP) and headed back to the Centre Pompidou. There was a beer store I wanted to visit that had been closed on Monday, so I headed back and chilled at a fountain while I waited for it to open. It was really nice to branch off on my own, I liked not having to worry about if my partner is enjoying him/herself, I could just do what I wanted to do. Also, it made the metro a lot easier, not having to coordinate four other people.

So I bought some French and Belgian beers to take home to CJ (winning me the best girlfriend award) and then headed out to meet up with Joanna! She used to come over to my house for Thanksgiving every year, but it's been over three years since we'd last seen each other. She's been living in Paris for two years now, and it was so nice to meet up and catch up. I seem to be meeting a lot of cousins abroad :)

I have a theory about Parisian Architecture. We had a really hard time finding architecturally significant buildings to visit in our free time, and it's honestly because there isn't much of it. Paris (and France in general) is very focused on preserving its image and its history. The most romantic city in the world needs to maintain its image, right? But because they're so focused on preserving the past, they don't have an eye for the future. And especially since there's no room in the city, most of the new architecture gets pushed to the outskirts where no one will go see it. In my opinion, Paris is far behind places like Berlin, New York, and even smaller cities and towns like Munich and Basel architecturally. There just isn't really a focus on it.

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