Here are some pictures taken today on a snowy place du Panthéon. I am taking advantage of the photographs of the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève to update my post on Henri Labrouste.
Tourists parade by all day past the doors of the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine. Inside, unbeknownst to them, is a sizable and very worthwhile architecture museum. If you are a curious traveler to Paris, I can only encourage you to push the door of the Palais du Trocadéro and discover what is inside.
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.
Today I took part in a lovely walk through Paris organized by the association Les Promenades Urbaines.
The theme of the walk was “The Urban Nature of Alphand”, a reference to Adolphe Alphand, the head of the Parks and Promenades Division of the Prefect of the Seine, Georges-Eugène Haussmann, during the Second Empire.
We went down the Avenue Foch (known as the Avenue de l’Impératrice during the Second Empire) and through the Bois de Boulogne. It was a wonderful chance to explore the genesis of a new form of urban nature in the mid-nineteenth century and what remains of it today.
The walk started with Michel Audouy, a landscape architect and professor, discussing how the design of the urban spaces of Second Empire Paris incorporated nature, for example through the systematic inclusion of alignments of trees. We walked down the Avenue Foch and explored this splendid space designed by architect Jacques-Ignace Hittorff and the city park department of Alphand.
Michel Pena, a landscape architect currently in charge of the requalification of a portion of the Bois de Boulogne, took us through the Bois. He passionately spoke about the park and its history, showing the great quality of the Second Empire achievements. He discussed Napoleon III’s personal passion for the design of parks and the tremendous achievements of Aphand’s parks department. He also showed us ways in which the original design has been severely compromised over the years and shared his travails in trying to restore the spatial qualities of the park as initially envisioned.
Les Promenades Urbaines offers urban walks in Paris throughout the year, led by experts and practitioners. They are a great way to learn about the city and its projects in greater depth. Perhaps if there is enough demand, they will do some in English some day. In any case you can visit their web site at www.promenades-urbaines.com and “like” them on Facebook.