This is probably my favorite spot in Paris and I submitted this picture for the A Moment in Time collage in the New York Times Lens Blog a few months ago. An odd favorite place I know, but I think I love it because it’s whimsical and unexpected–words that are not used to generally describe Paris. I think the first sign is the multi-colored metro entrance to the Palais Royal/Museé du Louvre metro stop on Rue de Rivoli, designed by French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel. The description of the permanent art installation is wonderful: “Two crowns made of glass and aluminum conceal a bench designed for chance encounters in the sleepy city.” This site provides a great 360 degree view of this metro entrance.
Just behind this is the courtyard of the Palais Royal, which houses the Colonnes de Buren, a permanent art installation by Daniel Buren. You could discuss the intention behind the work, but I’d rather write about the result. Visually, I love the regularity of the pattern and spatial layout, but also the spontaneity of the column heights. Then there’s the simultaneous contrast between material and the continuity of form between the columns of the Palais Royal and the Buren columns. And most importantly, the space feels alive. Even just after a rain shower, children were running and speeding around on Razor scooters. There were plenty of adults too, and not only parents.
There are multiple levels too, with running water. People try to land coins onto the column here and a crafty girl had attached a magnet to a string and was fishing for euros.
I come here to read sometimes. Even though its enclosed, it feels more open than most places in Paris. I find peace in movement so maybe the energy calms me here, whereas I too keenly feel the weight of history in the hegemonic semiotics of Parisian architecture. Definitely check this courtyard out if you are at the Louvre, it’s right across the street!
How to Get There:
Metro: 1 or 7 to Palais Royal-Museé du Louvre
Get in touch with the author @untappedmich.