Saturday, March 24, 2012

Palais Garnier

Fellow classical music lover friend came to town. I pulled myself out of a few days of trying to sleep off a cold to go see a concert at Palais Garnier!

10 euro, hour-before-the-show tickets got front row second balcony seats.

(It took me a little while to decide that the curtain was not actually real.)

The hall itself was quite different from anywhere I've attended a concert before. The balconies are stacked and the arrangement is as if there are a bunch of small rooms surrounding the stage. Rather than rows of attached auditorium seats there were individual chairs of different heights in each room to provide the tiered viewing.

Although the hall is mainly used for ballet, the concert itself was a woodwind ensemble playing pieces by a french and a czech composer. It's always a different experience visiting a concert hall just to walk around the building and actually sitting down and enjoying what the space was made for.

On that note, if you're in Boston and haven't been inside the Christian Science Church, you should go. Better yet, watch an organ performance. They actually have one of the world's largest organs there and it is impressive to say the least.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


The wikipedia description starts off "Montmartre is a hill". Very accurate, as usual.

It also happens to be a really cool area to explore. More tiring than others, can't really bike up and down the stairs, but definitely worth it.

Tristan Tzara's home designed by Loos is also located here.

And some no namer houses...

But people are probably more familiar with the area as the setting for Moulin Rouge and also the Sacre Coeur.

I visited the basilica in the evening/night as the doors are open till 11pm. Not many people were there, few tourists, a peaceful meditative space, the way a church should be. Not to mention, beautiful.

(I think this is the first photo I've taken where the sky has color. So many grey weekends.)

3 scenes, one building. [Cite de l'architecture et du patrimonie]

Funny how, for me, a more eventful life leads to a less eventful blog. Blogs are a depiction of not-my-life. I also tend to take less pictures when I'm with people, so this blog is a pretty inaccurate representation generally.

Things you do not see: friends visiting, drinking wine by the seine, late nights at the office, lunches out in the sun.

Things you do see: Museums, like the Cité de l'Architecture et du Patrimonie. It's a museum for architecture and urban planning. I posted a picture from inside the museum in my Eiffel Tower post. The museum building itself was part of a lot of the exhibits. In the Eiffel tower photo you see a replicated domed room in the museum.

Scene 1:
There was a street performer at the entrance to the museum. I've always thought it would be too ridiculous to drag a real piano out to perform on the street. Not something I ever expected to see.

Scene 2:
There's a full scale mock up of a unit from Corbusier's Unité housing project. Cool to see, but it's hard to understand the project from just one unit as the main ideas of the project only become apparent through the accumulation of units around shared spaces.

Scene 3:
Not sure I was supposed to be back here, but there was a children's room with the usual toy doll houses and castles replaced by toy cathedrals.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Outdoors Day and Night

Is North America the only temperate climate where people aren't super connected to the outdoors and to their streets?

Even in my first few weeks here, when it was chilly out, people were eating outside, drinking outside, sitting out in parks. Restaurants and stores spill into the sidewalk. You can see that people are wearing winter jackets in this photo. Most restaurants have outdoor seating and many have outdoor heating. There's a place on my street that only has space for one table outside for two and of course there is a table there.

At night, I've also seen pockets of people around, sitting, having a beer, playing music. Looking forward to spring and summer nights.

(Earlier this week, I went on a long evening/night walk. After living in Boston, where I feel insecure walking outside after dark, the little venture was quite liberating.)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Marché de la Bastille (Bastille Market)

I happen to have the best landlady in the whole world. Not only has she given me amazing chocolates and home baked goods to enjoy in my fully stocked apartment, she also invited me along with her for a trip to the market. Not the grocery store, mind you; when I mentioned the grocery, she scoffed and said 'That's not a real market.' So we went on a nice long walk, full of advice on where to find good chocolates, cakes, and baguette. I do believe she has a sweet tooth!

I've been to several markets at this point, trying to figure out the best way for me to buy groceries. Although the Bastille Market is crowded and being overrun by tourists, what I like is that it is like the Markets I am used to from Taiwan. Big, many options, and selling everything one could want. Food, clothing, rugs, toys, antiques... Well, maybe not everything. I still had to run to the grocery for milk, juice, and cereal.

The only place I can think of with reasonably priced produce along with all the other packaged goods I might want is the Chinese grocery, go figure.

I bought a gift for my dad at this Puce (antique market) that also starts at Bastille. I had to resist also buying myself a crap guitar to have some sort of instrument to play while here.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel)

The story of half of my ventures here seems to be me going somewhere only to find it closed. This time, I was headed to see a meditation space designed by Tadao Ando, located behind the UNESCO building only to find it closed for weekends. To compensate for my losses, I usually end up seeing something else in the area.

I had actually been putting off seeing the tower in the expectation that I will unavoidably see it several times once a few friends roll through. Wonderfully, it made itself even more unavoidable this weekend. The UNESCO building is just down the Champ-de-Mars, and the steel structure is visible from all around.

Here are three very different views.

The first two are from the Cité de l'Architecture et du Patrimonie. I've been told there are protests in Paris almost constantly.


Path of the vélib. I'm surprised by how many people don't know about this Parisian system. If you don't, really, look it up, because it is fantastic.

Path of the pedestrian. A bit narrow don't you think? At least this one didn't have a curb or posts. Posts being objects that are meant for pedestrian safety, which instead one has to avoid walking into constantly.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Arc de Triomphe

Check out the size of the people on top of the arch. People in Paris are mini! Joking, but also not. French people are generally a little bit shorter than what Americans would call average.

Spoiled photographer at work

Got pulled into model photography on the second day of work after commenting on needing to change camera settings on some photos that were not making the team very happy. Ended up spending many more hours in the basement taking photos once people realized I knew how to take photos. By the third day I was starting to get scared I would be in the basement for the rest of my 6 months! Glad to say this is not the case.

As a treat, I was using this bag of goodies. Unfortunately, the camera has returned to the coworker's home who was lending it for use.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Hotel Fouquet's Barriere


Sitting right off of the Champs-Elysees, this project brings the contemporary to the Haussman facade.

It's no easy task to bring contemporary architecture to Paris city center. Imagine being a folded plane building in this context...

Hotel Fouquet grabs onto the old Haussman facade as one way to resolve the dilemma of designing in a historic context during a not-yet historic time. (One can see that the Haussman elements are built using current technology.)

Received Via Work Email

Sunday, March 4, 2012

First times for everything

Today was the first time I used clothespins for clothes! I think I've only ever used them to make mini crocodiles and similar things.

There's a washing machine in my studio. It's great to just throw clothes in the machine at the end of the day rather than piling up a basket to walk somewhere else at the end of the week. Unfortunately no dryer. I'm expecting my clothes to become uncomfortably huge. Any tricks for shrinking clothes without a dryer? Or do I just need to eat more fromage and chocolate mousse?

Chapelle de la Sagesse

Chapelle de la Sagesse, a small chapel inspired by Ronchamp, which is in many ways the opposite of Notre Dame: no throngs of tourists, simple forms with no intricate ornamentation, small and intimate, and an exterior that calls no attention to itself at all. But with the exact opposite methods it achieves the same feelings of calm, a sacred space for meditation.

Simple offsets and shifting of wall and ceiling planes allow light to wash over surfaces into the room. Behind this wall was a stair leading down to the basement, a really terrific space compared to the usual stair tucked away into dark leftover space.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Le Passerelle Simone de Beauvoir / Bibliotheque Nationale (Perrault)

The wavy form of the Simone de Beauvoir bridge allows people to easily cross and access two different levels at either end of the river. It was also doing a pretty good job at entertaining the children who were rolling up and down the slopes on their scooters.

I found the name of this swimming pool floating in the river to the west of the Passerelle quite curious. Josephine Baker was a famous singer and actress, also known to the world of architecture, because of the Baker house designed by Loos, in which the most striking feature is a swimming pool with glass sides open to the floor below where she would supposedly swim naked. It's a house that comes up when speaking about architecture's role in defining the feminine and also race.

Rather than being a home for her, the house was a sort of stage.
As Baker was an important figure in Paris, i can understand that a building would be named after her, but for those who know, for that building to be a swimming pool brings up other connotations.

The Bibliotheque Nationale has been critiqued as a design failure. After having gone, I'd say it is still a success. Just because the books are not out for display along the windows does not mean that the books are not there and that the towers do not represent them.

And just because the forest garden in the middle is closed to public access does not mean it no longer makes a difference to the quality of the spaces which exist all around it. Just knowing the scale of the landscaping makes that evident.

Photo by Alain Goustard/BnF

The spaces were happily occupied by thousands of people reading, researching, studying, chatting, walking, jogging. Although massive and modern, there was a well considered palette of material textures and smaller nooks which softened the scale and created space for people.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Movement at Parc Bercy

Having acquired a vélib pass from Tristie (perhaps the only good thing about arriving after all the people I knew here left Paris), I took a ride down along the Seine and ended up in Parc Bercy. I couldn't imagine a similar park existing in the states.

This canyon does not dictate or limit itself to one activity, but encourages people to be creative in their use of the space. I wish public space did this more often. Sure, big flat open landscape or plaza can support nearly any activity, but the flatness does not suggest anything and often goes unused. Even a slight slope (as at the centre pompidou) is enough to suggest inhabitation.