The Hôtel Particulier: A Parisian Ambition

The hôtel particulier is an urban private mansion, standing most often away from the street, between a courtyard and a garden. There are fewer than 500 of these houses in Paris today, but there were as many as 2,000 in the seventeenth century. An exhibition that opened this week at the Cité de l’Architecture retraces the history of this fascinating building type, so important to Paris’s history and character. This exhibition and the splendid book that accompanies it are a real delight for anyone with interest in the subject. Continue reading The Hôtel Particulier: A Parisian Ambition

Pavillon de l’Arsenal

Of all the museums and exhibition spaces in Paris, there is one that is exemplary but whose existence most visitors to Paris will never suspect.

Located between the Place de la Bastille and the Île Saint-Louis, the Pavillon de l’Arsenal occupies a small building built in 1879 that used to serve to store artwork and then functioned as a warehouse. Since 1988, this space has been used by the city to show the results of architecture and urban design competitions, to present thematic exhibitions on Paris, to hold conferences and participative events, and a number of other things. Its official name is the Center for Architecture and Urbanism Information, Documentation and Exhibition of the City and Metropolis of Paris. Continue reading Pavillon de l’Arsenal

Thomas Couture

Thomas Couture is one of those artists who were at the center of the artistic activity of their time, whose work was avidly commented at each year’s Salon, but who is largely forgotten today. He is now remembered primarily for his influence as a teacher of other artists, such as Edouard Manet and Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, and his great influence on American painting through a number of American artists who studied with him in Paris, most notably William Morris Hunt.

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Heritage Days

In the early 1980s, the newly-arrived Socialist government, under the impetus of its Minister of Culture, Jack Lang, launched two events for mass access to culture. The first, in 1982, was the Fête de la Musique – since then, every year on June 21st, all sorts of people of various musical ability hit the streets and do their thing. The second, in 1984, was the Open House Days in France’s historical monuments. This has gone on to be an extraordinarily successful event, now expanded to all of Europe and called the European Heritage Days, or Journées Européennes du Patrimoine.

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The Hare With Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal

Edmund de Waal, a British potter, describes the collection of netsuke, Japanese miniature sculptures, belonging to his uncle that he will one day inherit. Thus begins a journey through history, following the collection, that takes us from 1870s Paris to early twentieth-century Vienna and finally back to Tokyo.

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Pixar Resurrects Les Halles

The people at Pixar really surprised me this week.

The movie “Cars 2” includes lots of breathtaking architecture, including both reconstitutions and fanciful inventions. Of course, for the scenes in Paris, I was watching with rapt attention. What was my surprise when the protagonists suddenly drove into the Les Halles market building designed by Victor Baltard – which was torn down more than 30 years ago.

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Château de Compiègne

With all the great things to do in and around Paris, it is understandable that the Château de Compiègne remains relatively marginal in the visitor statistics. Nevertheless – especially for anyone interested in Napoleon III and the Second Empire – it is a very worthwhile outing.

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