Thursday, April 27, 2006

still moving, and: apiculture

I am still excuse is that I'm moving in several directions at once, maybe as many as four if you count them, so it takes a while... I am trying to be as busy as these bees, busy pollinating the Luxembourg Gardens...

very tiring... but maybe the bee-man will open his hut for business and sell me some honey from the gardens once I have finished my first move, nearby, to the 5e.

You can see a few bees if you look closely... not to mention the glare of reflecting light of the iron bars I am valiantly peering through to get you this picture...yeah.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Moving notice

(View of a building from the Viaduc des Arts)

Apartments in Paris are damn small. I would probably give my eye-teeth to live in this flatiron-style apartment building. Instead, I am moving from my current apartment in Arts et métiers, my well-loved neighborhood, to a smallier and crappier place in the Latin Quarter, because of a crazy man in my building.

Maybe it will be a good education to learn to know a new part of the city. Here's hoping that Les étages, the café (although maybe not the cut-rate hammam) of the Grande mosquée de Paris, and the used bookstores of the Left Bank will be a good new home.

[Update: Actually, I like my new place. It has amazing amazing quantities of sunlight from the 4th floor window. And anyone who can't deal with a toilette à la Turque for a couple months isn't tough people. I'll just imagine it's 1923 and I'm Ernest Hemingway...or Igor Stravinsky or something....]

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Viaduc des Arts

This is the promenade plantée, la ligne verte, or the viaduc des arts... an old nineteenth century railway bridge that fell out of use as all trains were brought into a state monopoly. It was ruined for a while, and the city considered tearing it down and putting something horrible without any character in its place, but then Paris came to its senses and turned it into an elevated park, a few meters wide and over a kilometer long. It feels like a picturesque promenade in the late eighteenth/early nineteenth century sense: designed for a wandering, observing eye, and offering a varied panorama to look at.

The space underneath the arches that is not occupied by a cross-road, as shown here, has been turned into commercial space and tends to be inhabited by all sorts of fashionable design shops, third world import shops, and cafés...

The viaduct was redesigned by Patrick Berger in the late 1980s. He took his cue from an 1858 L'Illustration article, which describes the viaduct as being designed to have open arches faced in brick with stone dressings, in a style of which `the nearby Place Royale (Place des Vosges) offers such an elegant specimen', with the columns of the cast-iron bridges over the cross-streets exactly aligned on the trees bounding the Avenue.

Someone who may or may not have his feet photographed elsewhere in this blog, having a look at the traffic whizzing beneath him on the boulevard just below...

Because the viaduc is now a fashionable area to live, very interesting buildings are going up around it, most of them more penthouse-like than this one, but I liked this because it has such great organ-pipes attached...or is it just an old factory?

the traces of railroad trestles in the floor?

No fish... but fabulous little old ladies far away at the end of the picture... people were surprisingly wonderfully well dressed on the Viaduc.

Here is the park at Reuilly that the viaduct more or less ends at...gorgeous and alien at the same...although the park's pathway does continue for maybe another 0.4km as a sunken park converted from another old railtrack. It's also pretty, though not quite as nice as being up above the world...

As the Architectural Review comments: "Aloof from traffic noise and exhaust fumes, it offers a series of unexpected views -- from glimpses of the city's intimate anatomy in close-up, to plunging urban vistas through branches of the trees bounding the road below. Moreover, not only does this new linear pedestrian park revive the device of the elevated promenade (provided by the seventeenth and eighteenth century Paris boulevards on the city ramparts, and by the raised pavements of Bath and Bristol) but it demonstrates, too, that CIAM notions of vehicular and pedestrian traffic separation were not totally misguided."

Will narrow several meters wide elevated parks become the norm in cities?

Sunday, April 16, 2006

instant chrysanthemum

thank god I was invited to brunch today by a friend, where I consumed many Bloody Marys and eggs and salads of all kinds and Moroccan pastries and was generally genially well fed. I have nothing left in my fridge except condiments and sparkling water, because I forgot to go shopping before the long, looong Pâques weekend when everything is closed...

well, almost nothing. I could probably have tried surviving on this:


Friday, April 14, 2006

place Louvois

This is the little garden opposite the other library I work in, when I want to look at maps, engravings, and manuscripts, or when I want to work somewhere beautiful and restorative for the soul unlike the main library at Tolbiac, which I heard someone call the HLM de Mitterand today, although it's really not that bad in its own way. Still, a library with opposite a park, with nineteenth century industrial clocks, a pneumatic tube system, and chestnut trees? Chestnut trees are good for the soul. As are tulips.

Also, this is a garden with plenty of foresight. There are instructions in case of tempests.

One of the few real parks in the 2e arrondissement, this space was the site of Paris’ 9th opera house, razed to the ground to obliterate the scene of the politically-motivated murder of the son of the future king Charles X. Now it is dominated by a fountain designed by Visconti, sculpted by Klagmann, and commissioned by Louis-Philippe of France, which has three female figures at the top representing the four major rivers of France: the Seine, the Garonne, the Loire and the Saône.

The fountain was set up in 1844 but the space was transformed into a square only in 1859, by the great and megalomaniac Baron Haussmann.

It has putti. Very well-sheltered putti, who have been given first-rate flying fish, even if this one looks a little squinchy.
My eyes almost hurt from how buttery yellow these tulips were. That's probably healthy after a day in the dusty art-manuscript room on the very top of the library. I brought some home later that day (from a shop on rue Montorgueil, not from the park, helas).

Sunday, April 09, 2006

the Eure river

Saturday, April 08, 2006


The floorplan of Chartres, after the enlargements after the fire of 1194:

An oil in the Musée des Beaux-Arts of Chartres cathedral's roof on fire in 1836:

(If you know the name of person who painted this, please email me, as I neglected to note it).

Friday, April 07, 2006

C/hartres (inside)

This is just a small selection of my photos, and of the cathedral... it was really like a small stone city unto itself.

Barrel vaulting of wood ribs covered by stone. The circular joints are hollow, so their covers can be removed to air out the church if it got smelly and odoriferous from all the people in the middle ages who turned areas of the nave into a marketplace--since it was under the church's control, the king's taxes couldn't be imposed on goods bought or sold in here--or if it filled up with too much incense.

This is the Sancta Camisia, the Virgin Mary's tunic. It was considered to protect the town, and in fact whenever Chartres was besieged, the defenders would hang it on the town's defensive walls before battle. Apparently it worked.

It used to be kept in a closed container, so people thought the Virgin Mary had a shirt with sleeves on it. But no, it's a wrap, a length of silk cloth that has been carbon dated by scientists as coming from the appropriate time period.

This is one of the few medieval labyrinths to survive the changing fashions of church interiors. It's a meditation device inlaid into the floor (unfortunately we showed up the day after a very big group of pilgrims came through, so chairs are temporarily covering part of it). Unlike a maze, a medieval labyrinth has only one path for the devotee to follow. The exact uses of the labyrinth are unknown because no descriptions have survived in manuscripts, but it was once a widespread motif...the cathedral had Reims had a more complex one with towers in the corner, but the round labyrinth at Chartres is considered one of the more perfect designs.

me and another mystery at the bottom of the frame, him to the right.

Roseoles, so beautiful. Chartres must have been a very complex mnemonic device for monks at the school of Chartres, which was made famous by Fulbert for its advanced teachings in mathematics and logic as well as theology.

to give yourself a sense of scale, look at the chairs...

Looking behind us down the stairwell of the clocher du nord, the flamboyant Gothic tower...

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

C/h/artres (outside)

C/hartres, built 1194-1260, in order to house the silk tunic or veil of the Virgin Mary, the Sancta Camisia, a relic given to Charles the Bald by the Empress Irene of Constantinople.

The cathedral is a major stop for pilgrims making their way on foot to Santiago de Compostela in Spain; I saw one singing outside the church's doors and holding the cockleshell that is the mark of a pilgrim of St. James, Santiago.

too many beautiful images to share all with you...but here is a Romanesque doorway, of the resurrected Jesus and the souls of saints in heaven, the heavenly Jerusalem in relation to which C/hartres cathedral was considered the earthly Jerusalem... and indeed was large enough to be a stone city, and house a medieval population of several thousand pilgrims at a time...

Saints and Old Testament figures crowned by different famous churches and palaces existant in the twelfth century...
Somehow it was hard to take a photograph that showed just how visibly tiny the town of C/hartres is, and the bright vivid line between the town and the green, green fields that surround it...but you can kind of see it here.
These soaring arches are flamboyant Gothic, meant to remind you of flames.
May it not ring until I climb down!... we could see an electric system attached to the bell, so no human bell-ringer hangs from its ropes anymore.
who is lucky enough to repair this peak...
the balcony I am standing on, in the late afternoon sun...

the shadow of the spire I stand in...
The Romanesque tower, as seen from the flamboyant Gothic spire... including the mysterious wonderful demonic lion-dog on its own rectangular booster column, next to the littler spires surrounding the main tower...
Flying buttresses as seen from above... too bad I am not a rock climber!

Flying buttresses, from another angle... this is the exterior of the apse. It seems to connect via a staircase to a religious administrative annex...maybe part of where the monastery school of C/hartres was, with its logicians, originally headed by Fulbert.
copyright 2006