Grand Gallery of the Louvre by Thomas Allom c. 1844
Did you know that the encyclopedists wanted to open up the gardens and galleries of the Louvre Palace to the public long before it was slated to become a museum? The Palais du Louvre was constructed in 1190 by Philippe Auguste as a fortress to protect against Norman invasions. It was home to François Ier during the Renaissance. Henri IV built the Grand Gallery connecting the royal apartments in the Louvre to the Tuileries palace. The Louvre as it appears today was completed under Louis XIV, with additions by Louis XV. But it was only after the French Revolution that the Louvre was finally converted from a royal residence to the museum we know and love today. But over a decade before the Revolution, when Diderot and D’Alembert were compiling the Encyclopedia, their entry for the Louvre not only tells the palace’s history but makes some suggestions for its use that were rather advanced at the time: (more…)
Spring is the perfect time of year to visit the Parc des Buttes Chaumont, one of the most beautiful and extraordinary outdoor settings in all of Paris. Waterfalls, grottos, exotic plants and temples give the park a romantic, fantastical atmosphere; you half expect to find elves and fairies lurking in hidden corners and crannies. Strolling through the grounds, you’d never guess that the land beneath the Parc des Buttes Chaumont has a dark and unpleasant history. In the 18th century, Buttes Chaumont was home to the gibbet of the Royal Court. After the guillotine replaced the gallows in 1789, the land at Buttes Chaumont was used as a garbage dump that, according to the park’s lead architect, Jean-Charles Alphand, “spread infectious fumes not only to the neighboring areas, but, following the direction of the wind, over the entire city.”
In 1864, Baron Haussmann, the Prefect of Paris under Napoleon III, decided to transform the land at Buttes Chaumont into a park. The land was barren and smelly and yet, thanks to his team of inspired gardeners, engineers and landscape artists, Haussmann managed to create a beautiful outdoor spot where Parisians could relax and enjoy being in nature. It took the team three years to complete the park; they terraced the land, covered it with topsoil, and built a lake, a waterfall, a grotto and a cliff topped with a classical temple.
Discover the Parc des Buttes Chaumont in its earliest years by flipping through our slideshow of vintage photos and postcards.
The vintage postcards are courtesy of lartnouveau.com and the vintage photos are from Wikimedia Commons.
Many of today’s visitors who go to the Bois de Vincennes as an escape from Paris’s crowds and buildings would have trouble imagining it as it was in 1931, when dozens of buildings crowded around the Lac Daumesnil and thirty-three million people visited in a six month period. This is where the 1931 Paris Colonial Exposition, the apex of interwar political spectacle, was held, and while poster reproductions and old postcards aren’t hard to find today, almost all the buildings constructed for the event were quickly demolished or moved elsewhere.
The Palais de la Porte Dorée is a notable exception to this. Designed by Albert Laprade with bas-relief by Alfred Janniot, this structure at the entrance of the Bois de Vincennes was designed to be the exposition’s lasting monument, a built celebration of the French Empire.
Visitors to the Grand Palais are usually bowled over by the building’s monumental scale and the elegance and simplicity of its design. Standing at the center of the nave feels a bit like standing alone in the center of a vast field with nothing on the horizon except sky, only the awe inspired by the Grand Palais makes one recognize the feats of mankind rather than nature. Nothing can substitute for the experience of actually being there, but now you can take a virtual visit to Paris’s great Beaux-Arts icon. Learn all about the history and design of the Grand Palais from the glass roof to the majestic staircase inside the main exhibition space, which hosts a rotating roster of exhibitions and events. Scale the roof and take in the breathtaking views of Paris’s most important monuments from the Eiffel Tower and Les Invalides to the Sacré Coeur. Did you know that no part of the glass and zinc roof is flat? Now you can see it up close like never before.
If you stroll down the Rue Mallet-Stevens in Paris’ 16th arrondissement, you’ll discover five exquisite examples of modernist architecture from the early 20th century. The architect Robert Mallet-Stevens died at a young age and asked that his personal archive be burned; as a result, his name is relatively unknown compared to that of his contemporary, Le Corbusier. However, the houses on Rue Mallet-Stevens–just a few blocks north of the Fondation Le Corbusier–are well worth a visit. The architect’s style is unassuming, with plain lines and a spare use of color, but a closer look reveals a masterful elegance and grace.
According to Curbed National, the most famous house on Rue Mallet-Stevens can be yours for $3.9 million. Mallet-Stevens originally built the house for the sculptors Jan and Joel Martel, twin brothers who lived and worked in Paris in the early 20th century. Mallet-Stevens’ building is beautifully designed, down to the Martel brothers’ mailbox (see slideshow). The style of their home-cum-studio is both heavy and playful; bright splashes of yellow paint enliven its looming concrete walls.
Be sure to read our article about the Rue Mallet-Stevens to learn more about the architect and his work.