Tag Archives: Paris

Paris Wanderlust: The Haussmannian Revolution

The Haussmannian Revolution

A 45-million-year-old prelude

Ever since Romans in conquered Lutetia practiced open-pit mining to extract “Lutetian limestone” for their grand municipal projects, Paris has quarried the stone for its warm-toned buildings. And because limestone is a sedimentary rock composed of ancient marine life forms, Paris’ building block of choice actually consists of tiny fossilized mollusk skeletons.

This 45-million-year-old dimension of Paris adds an extra-ancient layer of history to a city whose architecture spans two millennia, from Roman to ultra-contemporary. Plus its greyish-cream stone gives Haussmannian Paris its characteristic warm ambience.

Below: Shelly fossils in a limestone building, appropriately enough next to a “History of Paris” placard.

Rue de Gribeauval

Some earth science teachers take their students on scavenger hunts in the heart of Paris to find fossils on the surface of limestone buildings.

Haussmannian streets of the Second Empire: uniformity and discipline

From 1852 to 1869, Georges-Eugène Haussmann, with the blessing of Emperor Napoleon III, transformed the urban landscape of Paris from narrow, winding medieval streets into a network outlined by broad boulevards interconnected by etoiles, or stars with roundabouts. The challenge was all the greater as the city’s population had doubled in size with the annexation of suburbs.

Haussmann’s streets in the new plan were lined with uniform facades of residences grand and modest, commercial spaces, and churches, and they were punctuated by monumental structures such as triumphal arches, large churches, and government buildings. A new infrastructure for water, gas lighting, sewerage was created. Parks were distributed with the idea of providing all districts and neighbourhoods with recreational spaces. And the all-important trees were planted along the streets.

Imagine living in Paris during the second half of the 19th century and enduring decades of dust, rubble, and major disruptions to life. As exciting as the Haussmannian project was to many Parisians, weariness eventually set in.

The keyword in early Haussmannian Paris is uniformity, aesthetically and formally,. Haussmann conceived of a block as a uniform set of facades, strictly regulated by building requirements for the height of storeys, balconies, and windows. The Third Empire saw a relaxing of such architectural regulations, but meanwhile . . .

Des pins, des pins, des pins . . .

An acquaintance whose family owns a pine plantation in the Southwest of France commented on the monotony of the acres and acres of pine trees: “Des pins, des pins, des pins . . .”

I think of her words when I’m faced with a seemingly endless succession of Haussmannian buildings, especially those constructed early in the urban revolution when architectural homogeneity ruled. The height of the stories were required to be uniform, and windows and balconies lined up with military precision, creating strong horizontal lines on the facades, unbroken across a block.

Rue de Rivoli, the first street to receive the full Haussmannian treatment:

Iconic Haussmannian blocks, appropriately enough on Boulevard Haussmann:

Boulevard Maleherbes:

If Haussmannian uniformity can at times be “distressing,” the prospect below might quality.

I had stepped a couple of feet into Rue Monge to take this photo, and the nice, motherly woman at bottom left warned me of oncoming traffic.

The Grand Boulevard in a Trench

The sunken Boulevard St-Martin, with its raised, wide pedestrian sidewalks, is one of my favourite streets in Paris. One literally walks above the traffic along a spacious sidewalk, somewhat removed from the noise of engines below.

Before Boulevard St-Martin was a boulevard, it was a bastion, a stronghold on a hill that was part of Charles V’s city wall, which lasted from the 14th to 17th centuries. The Wall of Charles V became the route for Haussmann’s grands boulevards, which form a large semi-circle around the Right Bank. The portion that is Boulevard St-Martin was dug into the bastion-hill, while the sidewalks remained about two meters higher.

Haussmann’s grands boulevards attracted the entertainment industry, including some of the earliest motion picture theatres such as the cinématographe of the Lumière brothers. Boulevard St-Martin shares in that heritage. Below is Théâtre de la Porte Saint-Martin, an institution that began as the Paris Opera in 1781. The current building was constructed 1873 and to this day functions as a theatre and opera house.

Architect: Oscar de la Chardonnière, Théâtre de la Porte Saint-Martin, 18 Boulevard Saint-Martin (10e)

Lending his name to this tradition on the grands boulevards, pioneering silent filmmaker George Méliès was born in a residence on Boulevard St-Martin. Famous for Voyage to the Moon, Méliès created many fantastical early silent films.

Aside: If you haven’t seen Martin Scorsese’s magical film Hugo, which weaves a fictional narrative around the rediscovery of Méliès and his films, I can highly recommend it.

Architects of L’École des Beaux-Arts

Haussmann’s grand rebuilding of Paris spawned a new generation of architects, who by and large were educated in the conservative École des Beaux-Arts (School of Fine Arts) and inspired by the ancient architecture of Greece and Rome. Below are some architects who rose to prominence, before and during the Second Empire.

Henri Labrouste’s university library

A prominent example of pre-Haussmann architecture that arose from École des Beaux-Arts is the main library of the University of Paris:

Architect: Henri Labrouste, Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève (1838-1850), 10 Place du Panthéon (5e)

While the exterior is regular and rather conservative, the interior reading room of the library is more adventurous, with exposed cast-iron arches on the ceiling (an early use of iron in combination with stone and glass).

Victor Baltard’s Iron and Glass Innovations

Église St-Augustin

Église St-Augustin (completed 1868), at the northern end of Boulevard Malesherbes, is a marriage of iron and stone designed by Victor Baltard, one of Haussmann’s favoured architects. The enormous dome was possible due to Baltard’s use of a supporting iron frame.

Église St-Augustin (completed 1868)

Eclectic in style, St-Augustin has been described variously as Tuscan Gothic, Romanesque, and Byzantine.

St-Augustin, at the northern end of Boulevard Malesherbes, exemplifies Haussmann’s strategy of placing an architectural monument at the end of a grand boulevard to provide an imposing vista.

Covered market pavillions of Les Halles (destroyed)

Baltard designed a huge complex of iron-and-glass pavilions (1853-1870) for Les Halles, the historic market of Paris. The 1971 destruction of Baltard’s pavilions is a familiar lament in discussions of Paris’ great architectural losses. One pavilion from the huge complex was preserved and moved to a location in Nogent-sur-Marne, an eastern suburb of Paris — so Parisians can experience a bit of what they lost. And one pavilion was moved to Japan.

Marché Saint-Quentin (in the style of Baltard)

But at least one covered market from the Napoleon III period survived the wrecking ball: the 1866 Marché Saint-Quentin on Rue Magenta. I’m not sure who the architect is, but this covered market echoes the style of Baltard’s famous marketplace and in fact was built at the same time. The iron framing supports the glass, which allows natural illumination of the covered market’s interior.

photo taken in mid-1990s

Charles Garnier

Architect Charles Garnier (of Palais Garnier fame) flourished during the reign of Napoléon III. Garnier’s style, sometimes described as Neo-Baroque, puzzled people during his own time. Garnier himself dubbed the style “Napoleon III.” In any case, his approach to architecture arose from the École des Beaux-Arts, where he studied.

Garnier designed an edifice for the Le Cercle de la Librairie, an association of professionals in the book industries:

built 1878-1880, 117 boulevard St-Germain (6e)

The Third Republic: fin-de-siècle architectural laboratory

As the fin-de-siècle approached, building regulations in Paris requiring conformity were relaxed. Architects increasingly incorporated metal, glass, and polychrome structures into the more traditional limestone architecture of the earlier Haussmannian period, giving rise to a proliferation of hybrid styles.

Printemps Haussmann — nascent Art Nouveau

When the 1865 department store Printemps Haussmann burned in 1881, Paul Sédille designed and completed its reconstruction during the 1880s. Metal was becoming increasingly important as a building material (think of the contemporaneously constructed Eiffel Tower). Sédille used metal as a decorative as well as structural element of the new Printemps,

Paul Sedille’s reconstructed Printemps Haussmann

Also, Sedille’s interest in architectural polychromy, influenced by visits to Spain, is evident in his commissioning of colourful Venetian glazed terracotta mosaics for the store’s name emblazoning the towers.

The age of the international exposition

From 1855 until 1900, Paris hosted five international expositions. Inspired by London’s Great Exhibition of 1851 and its architecturally revolutionary Crystal Palace, Emperor Napoleon III, not to be outdone, responded with the Paris Exposition of 1855 and its even more impressive Palais de l’Industrie. That structure no longer exists, but thus began an era of glass and steel palaces and of the increasing use of these materials in innovative ways.

No substantial structure exists from the earlier expos, but the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle produced the Tour Eiffel. More about this monument in my next post on Art Nouveau.

The 1900 Paris Exposition occasioned the building of structures intended to be more permanent: a glass palace and smaller palace, an ornate and monumental bridge, and two great train stations. Among other things, the exposition showcased technological innovations and the Art Nouveau style.

The surviving structures created for the 1900 Paris Expo deserve their own post: Le Grand Palais, Le Petit Palais, Pont Alexandre III, Gare de Lyon (rebuilt for 1900 Expo), Gare d’Orsay (now the famous museum specializing in Impressionism). Below, just a few highlights.

Le Grand Palais, the glass palace built for the 1900 Paris expo, celebrates the architecture that was perfecting the art of the glass and steel monuments and showcasing Art Nouveau decoration inside the large exhibition space.

Architects: Henri Deglane and Albert Thomas, Grand Palais

Below: One of Petit Palais’ famous murals, this one on the Dutuit cupola. The work by Maurice Denice narrates the history of French art. Below it, a wrought iron grand staircase flows like a weightless spiral of black Art Nouveau lace.

Dutuit cupola painted by Maurice Denis (after World War I); wrought iron staircase by Petit Palais architect Charles Girault (1851-1932)
Pont Alexandre III

The ornate, monumental bridge Pont Alexandre III connected pavilions at Expo sites on the Left and Right Banks.

Engineers: Jean Resal and Amédée D’Alby; architect: Gaston Cousin

The monumental ceramic entrance gateway below, created by the Sèvres manufactory, decorated the facade of the Palais des Manufactures Nationales. It was salvaged from the destroyed building and now decorates Square Félix Desruelles.

Two great train stations: Gare de Lyon & Gare d’Orsay

Before leaving Paris Expo 1900, a brief visit to one of two train stations completed for the event: Gare de Lyon. The exteriors of these train stations, like so many built around the same general period, echo the form and movement of locomotives. Gare de Lyon even looks a bit like a locomotive. The rhythmic arched windows evoke the wheels and the circular motion of the pistons, as well as the repetition and motion associated with train travel.

Architect: Marius Toudoire, Gare de Lyon (1899) for the World Exposition of 1900

What a gift to Paris and the world at large that the former Gare d’Orsay was preserved and converted into a great museum. The ceiling of the entrance gallery is a great glass awning, cousin to the glass palace.

Notre Dame du Travail

This church was built to accommodate the growing population of workers hired to construct the buildings of Paris Universal Exposition 1900. The unassuming exterior gives no clue as to what’s inside.

The exposed metal beams and support structure give the church a pronounced industrial vibe. It would make an awesome movie set.

Charles Lemaresquier, early 20th-century architect of public buildings

Félix Potin flagship

The second half of the 19th century saw the birth of large department store such as Printemps. In this arena, Félix Potin was an extraordinarily successful dry-goods merchant who sold items mass-produced at his own manufactory.

Below is a Félix Potin retail store built in 1910 by architect Charles Lemaresquier. The lower part is relatively plain, but the upper part is something like Neo-Baroque, displaying the highly ornate style and prominent turret characteristic of Potin’s flagship stores. It’s an architectural mullet: business at the bottom, party at the top.

Rue Réaumur

There’s something campy about the proliferation of details such as the giant urns and garlands, and the caduceus symbol (snakes entwined on a staff) in a large oval frame:

The caduceus is an attribute Mercury, patron of merchants and commercial success (among other things).

The Potin corporation finally went under in 1996, its departed soul perhaps guided to the underworld by Mercury the psychopomp.

Le Cercle National des Armées

Below, right: In 1927, Lemarasquier designed Le Cercle National des Armées, a hotel and social space for officers of the armed forces, located at Place St-Augustin next to l’Église Saint-Augustin.

Left: L’Église St-Augustin (1868), designed by Victor Baltard. Right: Le Cercle National des Armées (1927), designed by Charles Lemaresquier.

The re-visioned Neoclassical architecture of Lemarasquier’s hotel echoes elements of Baltard’s Église St-Augustin: the church’s stained glass rose window is picked up by the hotel’s circular windows, and the church’s Romanesque arched portals are answered by the hotel’s own arched portals and windows.

Hôtel de Ville

Paris’ city hall was rebuilt 1873-1892 with a Renaissance Revival flavour. This structure also needs a post of its own.

Architects: Théodore Ballu and Édouard Deperthes, Hôtel de Ville (1874-1882)

More light for offices and factories

After the downfall of Emperor Napoleon III in 1870, the early years of the Third Republic saw a relaxation of Haussmann’s stringent building regulations. By comparison, many of these innovative and idiosyncratic structures along a block can appear jarring. Commercial and industrial buildings incorporated large metal-and-glass windows to increase interior illumination. There are great examples on Rue Réaumur, whose construction began in 1895, and which served as a matrix for architectural experimentation).

The 1899 office building below adapts some features of Haussmannian buildings for commercial use. The lower storeys have large windows, and the upper levels are designed more traditionally.

A late Haussmannian (1899) commercial building designed by Wattier Architects (108-110 Rue Réaumur)

Below, variants in the evolution of the Paris apartment building, first quarter of the 20th century. Elaborate or eclectic, they no longer are bound to Haussmannian uniformity and display a plethora of approaches:

28 Rue du Cherche-Midi, built 1901
9 Boulevard de Bonne Nouvelle, built in 1906 (2e)
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19 Boulevard de Strasbourg (1914)
137 Boulevard Raspail (1923)
25 Avenue Ledru-Rollin (1927)

A flood of sunlight for residents: metal & glass box windows

For residential buildings constructed after about 1880, glass-and-metal box and bow windows were sometimes installed in vertical columns. They flooded the rooms of their residents with sunlight.

19 boulevard de Port-Royal (1880)
1 Rue de la Lune (building completed in 1880)

Architect Ferdinand Glaize designed the building below in 1891. Its unusual bow window is composed of metal, ceramic tiles, and glass.

95 Rue de Vaugirard

The glass, metal, and polychrome features of these residential, commercial, and industrial buildings resonate with some aspects of Art Nouveau architecture.

Sculptural ornamentation

The Haussmannian project provided opportunities for sculptors to ornament new buildings and to have their work on permanent display for tout Paris.

Boulevard Port-Royal
Rue Monge (5e)
Boulevard Port-Royal

Pride in work is evident in the architect and sculptor’s names carved onto the buildings below on Boulevard de Port-Royal:

Boulevard Port-Royal
Boulevard de Port-Royal, near Rue Broca (5e)


Islands of pre-Haussmannian facades

In the midst of Haussmannian streets, whether the architecture is regimented or cacophonous, you sometimes come across relaxed islands of surviving pre-Haussmannian buildings, such the short stretch on the north side of Boulevard St-Germain, between Rue de Buci and Rue de Seine:


Below, amber light at sunrise (or sunset, I don’t remember) in an Haussmannian apartment in Belleville.

Next: Sexy Art Nouveau

Camille Martin

Paris Wanderlust: Sexy Art Nouveau

Sexy Art Nouveau

Art Nouveau architecture must have appeared like a breath of fresh air amid regimented Haussmannian streets, the eclecticism of Beaux Arts architecture, and centuries of revivals of models from classical antiquity. Art Nouveau flourished only for about twenty years, from 1895 to 1914, the start of World War I, but it unleashed an explosion of creativity in architecture, infused variety into the urban landscape, and introduced the sensuality of sinuous and “whiplash” lines into the architectural syntax.

Department stores of the grands boulevards

Printemps Haussmann

Printemps Haussmann rose from the ashes of its 1881 fire, and its new architecture anticipated Art Nouveau styles. The use of glass and metal, the graceful curvilinear forms, and the colourful terracotta mosaics introduced Art Nouveau elements.

Paul Sedille’s reconstructed Printemps Haussmann (1880s)

Galeries Lafayette

A set of balconies surrounding the interior atrium of Galeries Lafayette, built during the full flower of Art Nouveau:

Architects: Georges Chedanne and his pupil Ferdinand Chanut, Galeries Lafayette, atrium balconies (1912)

La Tour Eiffel (1889)

La Tour Eiffel was built as the grand entrance to the 1889 Paris Expo, which celebrated the centennial of the French Revolution. With its latticed wrought iron incorporating curved forms, La Tour Eiffel epitomized the technological expression of early Art Nouveau.

Gustave Eiffel, Tour Eiffel (1889), view from Tour Montparnasse
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Art Nouveau architects: Lavirotte, Raquin, Guimard

Jules Lavirotte

The Lavirotte Building was built at the time of the 1900 Paris Exposition, an important showcase for the Art Nouveau style. Here is Art Nouveau architecture in full blossom, its rich and varied forms heavily ornamented and utterly original.

Architect: Jules Lavirotte (1864-1929), Lavirotte Building (1899-1901), 29 Avenue Rapp (7e)

Polychrome ceramics boldly enliven the facade of the apartment building.

Lavirotte’s exuberant design won a 1901 competition for most original facade in the 7th arrondissement. It’s easily the sexiest facade in Paris, hands down.

Phallic encoding on the entrance door:

Octave Raquin

Raquin built “Les Arums” in 1900 as a private college.

Architect: Octave Raquin, Les Arums (1900) 33 Rue du Champ de Mars (7e)

The decoration of the ornate but homogeneous facade derives inspiration from flowers: arums and calla lilies.

Marquise entrance with ornate wrought iron gate of arums:

Hector Guimard

Hôtel Guimard

Pioneering Art Nouveau architect Guimard made his debut in 1899 with his Castle Beranger, which won a competition for best new facade. Ten years later came the plainer Hôtel Guimard, the architect’s own residence. The relatively unadorned building allows its subtle curved lines and formal consistency to take center stage. It’s a quieter, stripped-down Art Nouveau.

Hector Guimard (1867-1942) Hôtel Guimard (1909), 122 Avenue Mozart (16e)

When I was there in 2019, the building was slated for cleaning and restoration.

Métro Mirabeau

Many of Guimard’s métro entrances were destroyed. The surviving ones are considered treasures and protected as historical monuments. That sometimes happens when you’re is ahead of your time.

Below: a surviving Art Nouveau entrance at Métro Mirabeau, designed in about 1913 by Guimard. It features escutcheons along the railing, and lamp posts with reddish lights, glowing like alien lily-of-the-valley pods. Over the entrance hangs a “Métropolitain” sign with characteristic font.

Hôtel Lutetia

Luxury hotel built in 1910 in Art Nouveau style:

Architects: Louis-Charles Boileau and Henri Tauzin, Hôtel Lutetia (1910), 45 Boulevard Raspail (6e)

Otherly Art Nouveau

The flowery facade of Rue Froidevaux

This 1929 building for artist studios and residences features late Art Nouveau decoration on the facade:

Architect: Georges Grimbert, artist studios and residences on Rue Froidevaux (1929) (14e)

The Building with the Green Balconies

The unusual building below has been described as Art Nouveau. It was built when that architectural movement was in full swing, but it’s an eclectic interpretation of it. The rectilinear green railings display nothing of the characteristic sinulous wrought iron designs, but the building’s curved forms faintly register Art Nouveau. Its presence in the 15th arrondissement is arresting.

83-85 Rue Blomet (1909) (15e)

Some Art Nouveau details:

Double ogive with cats, 12 Rue Blomet (15e)

Next: Art Deco

Camille Martin

Paris Wanderlust: Art Deco

Art Deco

I didn’t go to Paris seeking out Art Deco buildings, whose style spanned about 30 years (1910 to 1939). But as I wandered around the 15th arrondissement, they kept popping up — including Art Deco churches, which weren’t on my radar at all.


Église St Jean-Baptiste de la Salle (1910)

9 rue du Docteur Roux (15e)

Église St-Antoine-de-Padoue (1933)

52 Boulevard Lefebvre (15e)

Hotels and apartment buildings

Ernest Billecocq, 66 Rue Falguière (1914)

Below: A 1914 apartment building whose brickwork resonates with Art Deco. The rounded shape of the building also foreshadows the Art Deco “ocean liner style” (Fr. Style paquebot) of the 1920s, a streamlined form borrowed from the shape of luxury transatlantic liners.

Architect: Ernest Billecocq, 66 Rue Falguière (1914) (15e)

Charles Lefebvre, building on Boulevard de Strasbourg (1914)

Below: 1914 Art Deco-inspired reinforced concrete office building. Lefebvre’s design features ceramic cladding and polychrome mosaics.

Architect: Charles Lefebvre; ceramic cladding by Alphonse Gentil and Eugène Bourdet. 19 Boulevard de Strasbourg (1914) (10e)

Lutèce Hotel (1928)

5 Rue de Langeac (15e)

3 Rue Boussingault (1935)


1 Rue Nicolas Houël (1932)

1 Rue Nicolas Houël (5e)


Le Berry (1930s)

The Art Deco-style little theatre Le Berry was built during the 1930s. The photograph below was taken in the mid-90s, when it was in disrepair and threatened with demolition. Some young Parisians that I had met were circulating a petition to save the building. They were horrified at the prospect of a McDonald’s replacing it — a real possibility at the time.

I’m happy to learn that Le Berry is back in business, with a spiffed-up facade.

61-63 Boulevard de Belleville (11e)

Métro entrance


A few architectural details

Animal bas-reliefs on Rue Pasquier (1929)

Across the street from the Chapel Expiatoire is this whimsical building with panel friezes of finely carved animals: camel, elephant, alligator, shark among coral:

34 Rue Pasquier (1929) (8e)

Rue Brancion


Next: Brick Play

Camille Martin

Paris Wanderlust: Brick Play

Brick Play

One of the most appealing architectural features in Paris is the creative use of polychrome brickwork on facades. The colourful patterns can be complex and eye-catching.

14 Rue du Parc de Montsouris (1920) (14e)

The geometric patterns of the brickwork provide an ideal medium for Art Deco style, as in this 1914 apartment building in the paquebot style:

Architect: Ernest Billecocq, 66 Rue Falguière (1914) (15e)

Such brickwork is nothing new. It appears in various places in Europe during Medieval, Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance times. Modern polychrome brickwork made a strong comeback in the second half of the 19th century.

The building below recalls 17th-century Place des Vosges, with its masonry of red brick and contrasting white stone quoins.

Architect: Gabriel Ruprich-Robert (1859-1953), L’Institut Catholique de Paris & Musée Edouard Branly, 21 Rue d’Assas (1894-1897) (6e)

However, the fancy brickwork beneath the windows places the building closer to late 19th century.

Floral City, a quiet island of homes of two to three storeys, has made an art of using brick patterns to create visual interest along the facades.

17 Rue des Volubilis, Cité Florale (1914) (13e)
23 Rue des Orchidées, Cité Florale (1900) (13e)

Brick play from the 21st century:

97 Rue Vaugirard (2001) (6e)

Next: Islands of Urban Tranquility — Cottages & Row Houses

Camille Martin

Paris Wanderlust: Islands of Urban Tranquility — Cottages & Row Houses

Islands of Urban Tranquility — Cottages & Row Houses

Some neighbourhoods and streets in Paris have evaded shouldering multi-storey Haussmannian buildings, opting for lower structures and a village ambience. Two geographical features played a role in the location of many of these Parisian “villages”: the Bièvre River valley and the underground quarries of Lutetian limestone, so important to Haussmann’s rebuilding of Paris. Both of these geographical conditions exist in the Maison Blanche district of the 13th arrondissement, which includes La Butte aux Cailles and areas south of that hill: Quartier des Peupliers and Cité Florale.

Many streets of low-rise cottages and row houses, sometimes built for workers, offer quite a contrast to Haussmannian structures. Because their ground floors were not built to accommodate businesses, these quartiers tend to be quiet residential islands, buffered from the urban bustle and fray.

Maison Blanche (13e)

La Butte aux Cailles

The village on a hill that is La Butte aux Cailles began in the 16th century as a vineyard. The Bièvre River (a tributary of the Seine) flowed nearby, encouraging development and attracting industries such as tanners and dyers.

The hill was important to Haussmann, yet he never built his grand edifices there. He mined the limestone under the hill for his massive rebuilding of Paris, and the void left by these subterranean quarries left the hill’s surface unstable. Large, heavy Haussmannian buildings might have caused dangerous subsidence.

The village atmosphere of La Butte aux Cailles has remained consistent over the centuries, and lower structures still line the streets of the hill.

La Butte aux Cailles; Église Sainte-Anne de la Butte-aux-Cailles is in the distance.
A village cat en plein Paris

Cité Florale

The triangular community of Cité Florale is a small island of older homes from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Surrounded by 20th-century buildings, the Cité Florale values its architectural preservation and maintains its floral reputation.

Cité Florale (13e)

Quartier des Peupliers

The Quartier des Peupliers gives the impression of a cluster of villages that surround the tree-lined roundabout Square de l’Abbé-Georges-Hénocque:

The area includes several small, quiet streets lined with houses of two or three storeys. Constructed between the late 18th to early 19th centuries, the row houses originally accommodated blue-collar or middle-class families.

Rue des Peupliers

A conspicuously-placed stone house at the head of Rue des Peupliers heralds the stone row houses lining that street:

The row houses below, with their stone walls and boxy shapes, present a unified succession.

Rue des Peupliers (13e)

The earthy hue of the stones contrasts with the dark slate grey of the squared mansard roofs. And the curved window trim on the ground floor, as well as the varied shape and colour of the stones, softens the austere form of the houses.

Rue Dieulafoy

The forty-four middle-class row houses of Rue Dieulafoy were built in 1921. Their distinctive Mansard slate roofs and recessed windows unify the row. On the other hand, the varying trim details such as window parapets, pillared gates, and quoins give each house a degree of individuality.

Some of these features borrow from the architectural syntax of grander homes, while the uniformity of the structures and their relatively modest size mitigate any impression of ostentation.

Architect: Henry Trésal, Rue Dieulafoy (13e)
Rue Henri Pape

These identical houses of Rue Henri Pape were built in 1909 by socialist architect Henri Rebersat for the cooperative society La Petite Chaumière. Like the houses of Rue Dieulafoy, those of Rue Henri Pape sport distinctive architectural features: jerkinhead or Dutch gable roofs, popular in Germanic countries, and decorative wooden balconies.

Rue Henri Pape (13e)

The Dutch gable roofs recall the famous row houses of Renaissance Amsterdam. Another characteristic of the 19th– and 20th-century revival of Gothic and Renaissance styles is the use of polychrome brickwork:

The street, by the way, is named after Henri Pape, an innovative piano manufacturer with 137 patents to his credit. Who knew?

Rue du Moulin des Prés
Square des Peupliers

A metal disk on the cobblestones marks the location of the underground Bièvre River:

Does the Quartier des Peupliers rest on Medieval rubble?

As I wandered around the quiet streets of the Quartier des Peupliers, I wondered what lay underneath — limestone quarries, like so much of the 13th arrondissement? Actually, the ground below Quartier des Peupliers was decidedly not quarried, due to the presence of the Bièvre River and its valley in the area that’s now the Quartier des Peupliers.

From the time that this area was annexed in 1860 until about 1933, the terrain saw major changes. The Bièvre River was enclosed by a culvert and covered over, creating a subterranean waterway. Its valley — essentially the Quartier des Peupliers and Cite Floral — was filled in with debris from Haussmannian urban works.

The reddish-brown area on the map above outlines the Bièvre River valley.

Map from “The Bièvre: the river that disappeared in Paris” in Paris Impressions

My question is this: If Haussmann was still clearing away medieval Paris at that time, then might medieval rubble have been used to fill in the Bièvre River valley running through the Quartier des Peupliers? If so, could future excavations reveal anything of archaeological interest?

Maybe my question arises from my fantasy of participating in an archaeological dig in Paris. I can dream.

Neighbourhoods near Park Montsouris (14e)

Rue des Artistes

An elevated street where young artists lived in the 19th century.

View of Allée Samuel Beckett, a tree-lined walkway in the middle of Avenue René Coty

Short streets west of Parc Montsouris


Rue des Thermopyles & Cité Bauer (14e)

Pleasant cobblestoned lanes with low-rise houses, artistic facades, and a community garden.

A neighbourhood community garden:

Rue Cremieux (12e)

The now-gentrified pastel houses of short Rue Cremieux were built in 1857 to house workers.


South of Tour Triangle (Hauts-de-Seine)

Rue Marcel Yol, in Hauts-de-Seine, south of Tour Triangle
Rue Marcel Yol, in Hauts-de-Seine, south of Tour Triangle

Next: Scenes of Urban Development in Paris

Camille Martin

Paris Wanderlust: Scenes of Urban Development in Paris

Scenes of Urban Development in Paris

ZAC Masséna

Searching for contemporary architecture in Paris, I learned of an area called ZAC Masséna in the 13th arrondissement. “ZAC” stands for Zone d’Aménagement Concerté: an area designated for development by the city, in consultation with the community.

From old grain mill to university

The area of ZAC Masséna had been generally industrial. The Great Mills of Paris, dating from World War I, occupied the northern part of the zone. Were these landmark flour mills salvageable?

The City of Paris thought so, following an international trend to salvage such buildings in order to retain something of a city’s industrial history. The mill’s silos and warehouses were torn down, but the main buildings were converted into administrative and classroom buildings for the new campus of Paris Diderot University.

Batiment HOME (2015)

One of the anchors of ZAC Masséna is Batiment HOME, two mixed-use residential high-rises built in 2015. Such tall structures hadn’t been erected in Paris since the 1970s due to tight regulations on the height of buildings.

Architects: Hamonic+Masson, Batiment HOME (2015) (13e)

More buildings of ZAC Masséna

Some of these are dormitories associated with Diderot University.

Below, two buildings influenced by the mashrabiya screen of Middle Eastern architecture. I’ll have a closer look at this influence in an upcoming post.

Le Nid (The Nest), an office and housing complex built in 2012:

Architect: Rudy Riciotti, Le Nid, Rue Neuve Tolbiac & Avenue de France (2012) (13e)

The high-tech building below is covered with twelve giant digital screens displaying artistic content.

133 Avenue de France (13e)

Social housing with an attitude: Fulton Residence (2017).

The Fulton residential building (2017), Quai d’Austerlitz (13e)

Another double-take building in the 13th arrondissement

Apartment building clad in white, blue, and green tiles:

64 Rue Clisson (1995) (13e)

Next: Paris’ Love Affair with Glass

Camille Martin

Paris Wanderlust: Paris’ Love Affair with Glass

Paris’ Love Affair with Glass

Ever since the glass palaces of the 19th-century expositions, Paris architects have been in love with glass.

Grand Palais (1900)

Actually, Paris’ love affair with glass and light goes back much farther to the French Gothic, especially the Rayonnant style of 13th-century Ste Chapelle.

Beaux-Arts and Art Nouveau buildings return to the love of light . . .

Paul Sedille’s reconstructed Printemps Haussmann (1880s)
Musée d’Orsay, formerly Gare d’Orsay (1900)

In the more recent past, Paris has found a plethora of ways to invite in as much light as possible, from the smaller-scale glass Pyramid in front of the Louvre, to the monumental glass Tour Triangle, a high-rise under construction.

Here they are, some Parisian glass palaces of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Front de Seine – Beaugrenelle (1970s)

The Front de Seine, a collection of commercial and residential high-rises in Grenelle, arose from an urban development project during the 1970s.

Front de Seine, view from Pont Mirabeau (15e)

The buildings give the impression of both uniformity — most are about 30 storeys — and variety.

An aside: La Cheminée du Front-de-Seine

A slender white tower rises above the buildings of Front-de-Seine: La Cheminée du Front-de-Seine. It is indeed a chimney, releasing steam from a mall’s boiler room. Its resemblance to the neuralizer in Men in Black has been noted.

The top of the chimney has become home to a family of peregrine falcons. A webcam was installed to watch over the birds, and delighted Parisians witnessed the hatching of the chicks and the first flight of the fledgling predators.

Tour Montparnasse (1973)

During my 2019 stay in Paris, I lived in the shadow of Tour Montparnasse. Sometimes the tower photobombed my pictures. Standing anywhere on Rue de Rennes, it’s unavoidable. For all my proximity to the skyscraper, I only have one night shot of it.

The appearance of the 1973 black skyscraper of Montparnasse stirred widespread scorn by many Parisians, who promptly passed stringent ordinances limiting the height of buildings within the city. For a long time, this skyscraper was a one-off in Paris.

I’m indifferent about the tower . . . except when I’m enjoying the views from its panoramic observation terrace.

Les Échelles du Baroque (1985)

It’s no coincidence that the residential Échelles du Baroque (1985) is located near Tour Montparnasse. That skyscraper, completed in 1973, was intended to inaugurate a center of business on the Left Bank. And the Échelles du Baroque was an effort to expand housing for people working in the complex.

Catalan architect Ricardo Bofill, Place de Catalogne (1985) (14e)

Bofill nods to classicism in the building’s glass columns with capitals (bow windows within the apartments):

Pyramide du Louvre (1989)

For all the controversy that I. M. Pei’s Pyramide du Louvre has stirred, it’s one of the most iconic structures in Paris. Its clean geometrical lines and glass-and-metal construction recall the Grand Palais.

And the shape of the Pyramide du Louvre distantly echoes that of the Eiffel Tower.

The Tour Triangle, under construction, will connect with its precedents of Grand Palais and Tour Eiffel. Below is an aerial view of the projected tower:

More about Tour Triangle below.

Although the renovation of the Gallery of Evolution is modern (1990s), the 19th-century spirit of its cast iron and glass interior shines through. The Gallery’s huge atrium and luminous glass ceiling are akin to Belle Époque glass palaces.

La Grande Galerie de l’Évolution (renovated 1991-1994), 36 Rue Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (5e)

Built in 1889, the structure was damaged during World War II and had to be closed in 1966 due to safety concerns. Almost thirty years later, the renovated temple to evolution once again opened its doors to the public and to swarms of schoolchildren.

113 Rue Nationale (1996)

The intriguing building below was built in 1996. One of its tenants is the Institut des Systèmes Complexes.

113 Rue Nationale

Bibliothèque François Mitterrand (1995)

The four colossal “open books” designed for the National Library of France is conceptually attractive.

Architect: Dominique Perrault

Perrault’s “book pages” gaze inward, defining a vast rectangular space.

I visited the Bibliothèque Nationale on a Saturday and noticed several groups of teens rehearsing dance routines before the reflective glass of the buildings. The trio below was focused and creative.

Here’s a library serving its community.

Piscine Josephine Baker (2006)

Taking a dip in the Joséphine Baker Swimming Pool is the closest that most people will come to swimming in the Seine. The glass-and-steel public pool is effectively a boat — or rather a barge — moored to the shore at the foot of the Bibliothèque Nationale. In warmer weather, the glass enclosure comes off.

Quai François Mauria (13e)

Siège de la Banque Postale (2006)

Below is the updated exterior of the main branch of the Paris post office, completed in 2006. I admire the light effect of the whitish glass. Maybe it would even improve the experience of waiting in line.

Rue de Sèvres (6e)

The City of Fashion and Design (2010)

La Cité de la Mode et du Design is one of the most radical architectural adventures in Paris. Streetside, the building’s famous “green serpent” appears as a two-dimensional wavy green ribbon.

Architects: Jakob + MacFarlane, La Cité de la Mode et du Design, 34 Quai d’Austerlitz (13e)

An inspiring place to pop wheelies.

Viewed from the Seine at night, the Cité glows in 3-D, like a phosphorescent snake from a sci-fi manga comic book. It’s hard to take your eyes off it.

People seem to like the building . But seeing it for the first time, they can’t believe it’s in Paris — which has, however, come a long way since Haussmann.

Novancia Business School (2011)

The Novancia Business School with its bright red and yellow glass panels offers a contemporary style that wildly contrasts with the neighbourhood’s architecture yet also oddly resonates with it. The stylized mansard roof and dormer windows echo those of nearby Haussmannian buildings.

Tour Montparnasse peeks over the shoulder of the Novancia Business School, 3 Rue Armand Moisant (15e)

The eco-friendly shutters can be open or closed, to regulate the building’s light and temperature.

Les Halles (2016)

Paris’ ancient marketplace has undergone two major transformations since Victor Baltard created large iron and glass pavilions in 1863.

In 1971, Baltard’s personable food market was bulldozed to make way for a shopping mall. Parisians have forever after lamented the destruction of the pavilions, especially in light of the 1970s structures that replaced them. The new “Forum les Halles” has been described as “Paris’s biggest and least pleasant shopping mall.” Former Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoë called Les Halles “a soulless, architecturally bombastic concrete jungle.”

I visited this incarnation of the market with a friend during the mid-1990s, and I wasn’t impressed. She took me to a nearby flea market, where she combed through old postcards trying to find an image of Baltard’s beloved old pavilions. She wanted to show me Paris’ great loss.

Although the rather uninviting market of the 1970s has been replaced, I see echoes of it in adjacent buildings:

In 2016, the shopping mall, metro station complex, and surrounding gardens were completely redesigned.

The wavy gold canopy is memorable, though the interior made me feel a bit claustrophobic. Not my cup of espresso. I’d like Baltard’s pavilions back, please.

L’Institut de l’Audition (2019)

The new Hearing Institute, in which the Pasteur Institute is a central actor, recently moved into its architecturally innovative home. Its reflective honeycomb-shaped panels mirror the buildings across Rue de Charenton.

Architect: VIB, 63 Rue de Charenton (12e)

Headquarters of Le Monde (under construction 2019)

Below: the new headquarters of the French media group Le Monde, under construction in fall 2019. Designed by the Norwegian group Snøhetta.

78 Avenue Pierre Mendès-France, near Gare Austerlitz (13e)

La Tour Triangle (to be completed 2024)

La Tour Triangle is a spectacular high-rise to be built on the site of Paris Expo Porte de Versailles, just inside the city limits. The building will include a hotel, conference center, cultural space, and restaurant. The surrounding Expo complex, currently under renovation, will host part of the 2024 Summer Olympics.

Below is a projected aerial view of the completed complex of buildings associated with La Tour Triangle:

L Tour Triangle, designed by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron

A protracted legal battle delayed construction of the tower. When I visited the Expo site in October 2019, construction on the Tour Triangle hadn’t yet begun.

When completed, it will be the tallest building to be erected within the city limits since Tour Montparnasse. No wonder there was such controversy. Parisians, averse to allowing tall buildings in their city after the insult of Tour Montparnasse, were divided on Tour Triangle.

The structure below is not the Tour Triangle, but instead an architectural canopy marking the entrance to one of the new pavilions of the complex. Appearing like a colossal wind chime, it echoes the shape and concept of the Tour Triangle.

Call me old-fashioned, but there’s something dystopian about the panopticon digital screen surrounding public benches within the complex:

Here’s a closer look. I like the sinuous shape of the seating. Not so sure about the inescapable LED images endlessly circulating. I imagine Coke ads. But the screen is probably intended for communicating events of the 2024 Summer Olympics, and maybe advertising a nice Chablis. I suppose that would be ok.

One of the older structures of this Paris Expo site is the Dôme de Paris (built in 1959), whose roof is composed of aluminum panels.

An avant-miscellany

Chinese watercolour and little red trucks

This has to be one of the coolest buildings in Paris.

90 Rue de Gergovie (date of construction unknown) (14e)

The split building

I just had to include this one. The 1985 apartment building below splits down the middle into symmetrical halves.

106 rue Falguière, 19 rue Vigée Lebrun (1985) (15e)

Peering into the inner courtyard . . .

A still closer view reveals a trompe l’oeil fresco, perhaps a painted image of a traveler soaking his feet in a real tub? There must be a story here. I can see it in the man’s eyes.

Next: The Mashrabiya Connection

Camille Martin

Paris Wanderlust: The Mashrabiya Connection

The Mashrabiya Connection

10 Boulevard de Grenelle (15e)

Architects in Arab countries developed to an art form the mashrabiya: the latticed box bay window that encourages air flow, cuts sunlight, cools the interior, and offers privacy without sacrificing the view outside. Not to mention the beauty of its intricate patterns.

The geometrical motifs on the minaret of the Grande Mosquée de Paris are reminiscent of mashrabiya screens:

Architect: Maurice Tranchant de Lunel, Grande Mosquée de Paris (1922-1926) (5e)

The mashrabiya has entered the international architectural syntax, with noteworthy examples in Paris.*

Ministry of Culture and Communication: wrapped in mesh

I chanced upon the headquarters of the Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication, a building enveloped in latticed ironwork:

Architect: Francis Soler, Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication, Rue Saint Honoré & Rue Croix des Petits Champs (2005) (1er)

My first thought was that scaffolding had been erected around the building for major renovations. But not even Parisians make scaffolding that resembles intricate Art Nouveau lace . . .

How did this transformation come about? The Ministry of Culture and Communication, in need of consolidating various offices into its headquarters, selected two very different adjacent buildings, constructed forty years apart: a 1919 edifice (in the Haussmannian continuum) and a 1960 glass office building whose style I can only describe as nondescript.

In 2005, architect Francis Soler brought the two contrasting buildings into harmony by wrapping them in metallic latticework reminiscent of Art Nouveau style, especially in its curvilinear designs. For comparison with Soler’s mesh, below is the balcony railing at the Art Nouveau Hôtel Guimard:

Balcony at Hôtel Guimard, 122 Avenue Mozart

The two halves of the balcony railing above are symmetrical. Although Art Nouveau buildings generally eschewed symmetry, it was considered acceptable for smaller elements such as the railing.

Likewise, the individual panels of Soler’s computer-generated mesh form mirror images:

As far as I can tell, each section of latticework and its mirror image is different from the others. Compounding the complexity of the effect are reflections in the glass windows, as well as the shadows cast onto the building’s façade:

The rescued car factory of Panhard and Levassor

Below is the sole surviving structure of the former Panhard and Levassor automobile factory. In 1967, the factory was briefly absorbed by Citroën before shutting down, after which most of the buildings were demolished. By 2017, the surviving structure was converted into office space. On the roof, at either end of the building, the architects designed a large addition clad in metal latticework matching the colour of the bricks.

Architecture agency: AREP (renovated 2007 -2013), Avenue d’Ivry (13e)

“Nest” and “trellis”: two mashrabiyas in ZAC Masséna

Below are two contemporary buildings in the urban development zone of ZAC Masséna that borrow the mashrabiya concept. The “Nest” is a 2013 office and apartment building:

Architect: Rudy Ricciotti, Le Nid, 121 Avenue de France (2013) ( 13e)

Architect Ricciotti says that the wooden “sticks” of the nest “recall the image of a bird’s nest on the scale of the voracious Pterodactyl.”

Below, an existing building in ZAC Masséna received a playful update with a checkerboard pattern of light green panels perforated to suggest plants climbing a trellis. The very material of the panels is inventive: a patented fiber-reinforced concrete.

Grenelle media centre

A perforated steel veil drapes along the lower floors of a renovated media centre:

Architect: Véra Matovic, B architecture, 10 Boulevard de Grenelle (15e)

Église Notre-Dame-de l’Arche-d’Alliance

The architecture of the contemporary church below is probably not part of the mashrabiya continuum — the metal grid doesn’t function as a brise-soleil (sun blocker), and its structure has a symbolic meaning unique to the church. However, the 1998 church displays an interesting (to say the least) use of the mesh concept.

Architect: Architecture-Studio, Église Notre-Dame-de l’Arche-d’Alliance (1986-1998), 81 Rue d’Alleray (15e)

* Perhaps the earliest and most spectacular of the architectural use of the mashrabiya in Paris is the Institut du Monde Arabe (1987), which I plan to visit on my next trip.

Next: Never Forget

Camille Martin

Paris Wanderlust: Never Forget

Never Forget

A central event in the history of the Nazi Occupation of Paris is the mass arrest and deportation of Jews in 1942. More than 13,000 Jewish residents were arrested and taken to the Vel d’Hiv (Vélodrome d’Hiver), an enclosed winter stadium near the Eiffel Tower. They were held under inhumane conditions before being deported to Nazi death camps.

Below are photographs of two Jewish or formerly Jewish communities in Paris. I’ll also visit sites that memorialize the arrest, deportation, and murder of French Jews.

La Cour aux Juifs

A Jewish community lived in the eight floors of apartments surrounding this pleasant courtyard with fountain, lamps, and double staircase. La Cour aux Juifs, built into the hillside of Montmartre, was one of many Jewish neighbourhoods in Paris that suffered a terrible fate under Nazi Occupation.

Rue des Rosiers

Rue des Rosiers (rosebushes) is a street in a Jewish neighbourhood called in Yiddish “Pletzl” or “little place.” From the 1880s, East European Jews fleeing pogroms settled in the Marais neighbourhood. Before World War II, the Pletzl was a thriving community. During the Occupation, more than half of its population were murdered in Nazi camps.

A plaque in nearby Jardin des Rosiers-Joseph Migneret reads:

Arrested by the police of the government of Vichy, complicit with the Nazi Occupation, more than 11,000 children were deported from France from 1942 to 1944, and murdered at Auschwitz because they were born Jewish.

More than 500 of these children lived in the 4th arrondissement, among them 101 little children who hadn’t even attended school yet.

You who pass by, read their names. Your memory is their only sepulchre.

Never forget them.

Deportation Memorial

If you walk along the Seine south of Métro Bir-Hakeim, a somber sculpture of seven figures gradually comes into view. They are sitting on the ground, in a state of shock and despair. Parents hold their toddler protectively, a little girl plays listlessly with her doll, a man embraces his pregnant wife, and an older woman rests on her suitcase, leaning her head on her hand. Perhaps she’s remembering pogroms from another time and place.

The sculpture memorializes the shameful events in the history of Paris when authorities in Nazi-occupied Paris arrested Jewish residents, crowded them into the Vel d’Hiv, and transported them to Nazi death camps. The memorial acknowledges the complicity of the French government of 1940-1944 in racist and anti-Semitic persecutions and crimes against humanity.

Below: the Deportation Memorial (right) and view toward Métro Bir-Hakeim and Tour Eiffel. The Vel d’Hiv (Winter Velodrome), where arrested Jews were held, was located a couple of blocks to the right in the photo.

Garden of the Vel d’Hiv Children

A short walk from the Deportation Memorial is the Garden of the Vel d’Hiv Children. On one side is a wall of names and ages with the following explanation:

List of children arrested by French police and interned at the Vélodrome d’Hiver on July 16 and 17, 1942, before being deported by the Germans to the extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Opposite the wall is a “garden of children” documenting some of their lives: names and photographs of children and parents, along with their last Paris address, dates of arrest and deportation, and the identification number of the convoy in which they were transported to a death camp.

With the exception of 6 adolescents, none of the 3,900 children detained at Vel d’Hiv and deported, survived.

Steles for the children

The translucent blue stele below, rounded to suggest a gravestone, is located at Square Félix Desruelles. Similar ones are found throughout Paris.

Below two etched hands of children, the stele tells that many of the children who were deported and murdered had lived in the 6th arrondissement, among them 6 little children who hadn’t even attended school yet.

Memorial plaque on school

The plaque below, affixed to the entrance of a boy’s school on Île St-Louis, acknowledges that Jewish children who had attended that school were deported and murdered in death camps.

Memorial to the Martyrs of the Deportation

To the rear of the Notre Dame Cathedral is an unforgettable memorial to French Jews who were deported and murdered.

After passing through the gates, I entered a pleasant grassy area with a fence on either side of the walkway and then descended a set of stairs.

The noises of the city became muffled, and I could only hear the lapping waters of the Seine through a barred window. I felt as though I were leaving the world behind and entering a space of separation, departure, and denial of freedom. A row of sharp bars seemed to signify no exit, no escape, no turning back.

Opposite the sharp bars, I faced a narrow entrance that was both forbidding and necessary to the experience.

Inside: an enclosed space of quiet lamentation.

On the ground lies a circular metal plate around which these words are engraved:

Ils allèrent a l’autre bout de la terre et ils ne sont pas revenus.

They went to the other end of the earth, and they did not return.

A dedication is inscribed on the wall:

Pour que vive le souvenir des deux cent mille français, sombrés dans la nuit et le brouillard, exterminés dans les camps nazis.

So that the memory of two hundred thousand French people, enveloped in night and fog and exterminated in Nazi camps, may live on.

The impact of the memorial is sorrowfully poetic and visceral.

Shoah Memorial: The Wall of the Righteous

The Mémorial de la Shoah is located in the Marais, which had a significant Jewish population before the mass arrest and deportation. Taking photographs inside the museum was not allowed, but the exhibits were detailed and well presented. And devastating.

Just outside the museum is Le Mur des Justes (The Wall of the Righteous):

Père Lachaise Cemetery

Monument for the inmates of Natzweiler-Struthof, Nazi slave labour camp in Alsace

In 1941, Nazi Germany invaded Alsace and a year later established the Natzweiler camp near the village of Struthof. It was the only concentration camp in France, but it encompassed 70 “kommandos” (labour units) along the Rhine River.

Below is a map showing the location of the Natweiler-Struthof camp. It also indicates “the number of French deportees, not including foreigners refused by France.”

From the Memorial to the Martyrs of the Deportation

Many of the inmates of the slave labour camp of Natzweiler-Struthof were members of the Resistance in occupied territories. These political prisoners “disappeared” under the Nacht und Nebel decree of 1941 that enabled their clandestine arrest and deportation under cover of night and fog.

Nazi guards put the prisoners to work in granite quarries, and Nazi “doctors” experimented on many of them. The death toll at that camp reached about 22,000. Below is the monument at Père Lachaise Cemetery dedicated to those who suffered and died at Natzweiler-Struthof.

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In the center is a sculpture of a Natzweiler prisoner who expired in an emaciated and exhausted state. The stacked stones on either side of the body come from the quarry. The triangle at the base represents the red triangle that political deportees had to wear on their prison clothing.

Buchenwald-Dora monument at Père Lachaise Cemetery

A film crew installed a railway for their camera, unwittingly creating a disconcerting image.

Next: Bridging the Seine

Camille Martin

Paris Wanderlust: Bridging the Seine

Bridging the Seine

This post, just pictures.

Pont Mirabeau

Standing on Pont Mirabeau. In the distance is Pont de Grenelle, which passes over Ile des Cygnes.

Viaduc de Passy

Gift to the City of Paris in 1948 by Danish sculptor Holger Wederkinch, Monument de la France renaissante, on Viaduc de Passy
Wederkinch’s equestrian statue evokes Jeanne d’Arc to symbolize the rebirth of France after World War II.

Pont Alexandre III

Pont des Arts

Pont des Arts, leading to l’Académie Française

Pont Neuf

Pont Neuf (Pont des Arts in the distance)

Pont au Double

Pont de la Tournelle

Sculptor: Paul Landowski, statue of Ste Geneviève, Pont de la Tournelle

Pont de Sully

Pont d’Austerlitz

Viaduc d’Austerlitz

Pont Charles de Gaulle

Passerelle Simone de Beauvoir

Pont de Bercy

Pont de Bercy (Fulton Residence in the distance)

Next: Passages with Personality

Camille Martin

Paris Wanderlust: Passages with Personality

Passages with Personality

Before I broadened my exploration of Paris’ passages, I had a mental image of a “typical” one, something like the elegant, streamlined Passage du Bourg l’Abbé:

It was, to my mind, a classic 19th-century passage with glass ceiling, swank shops, and polished wood paneling.

But what about a pre-French Revolution passage with a colourful Art Deco roof? Or a passage that broadens into a space topped with a rotunda? Or a passage with atriums that open to the sky? How about one featuring a monumental clock automaton? And what does a 21st-century passage look like?

Maybe the “classic” one isn’t so typical. Like the parks of Paris, each passage has its own history and personality.

Pre-French Revolution passage with Art Deco roof

Passage du Prado

This originally uncovered passage was created in 1785. Its Art Deco roof and colourful decorations were added in 1925.


The alternate realities of three passages

On the Right Bank lies a stretch of three passages in a row, each linked to some form of alternate reality.

Passage des Panoramas

Nothing remains of the 19th century “panoramas” that gave this passage its name in 1800. The panorama was a scene — natural or urban — painted onto a rotunda. The viewer would climb stairs to a platform that allowed a maximal experience of the place depicted.

An enterprising American shipbuilder constructed two towers along Boulevard Montmartre featuring such panoramas, and opened them to the paying public. In order to offer visitors a comfortable and sheltered access to the towers, he constructed the Passage des Panoramas.

11-13 Boulevard Montmartre (2e)

The towers with their painted rotundas were demolished in 1831. All that remains of the escape fantasies of Boulevard Montmartre is the name of the Passage des Panoramas. That, and the abiding human desire to experience a convincing elsewhere.

Passage Jouffroy

Two entrepreneurs — one of them a caricaturist named Grévin — created Passage Jouffroy.

Passage Jouffroy (1836) (9e)

The two eventually opened a wax museum with a façade in the passage. Musée Grévin, the Parisian version of Madame Tussaud’s in London, housed its own special brand of alternate reality.

Musée Grévin (founded 1882)

Passage Verdeau

Walking north, the streak of preserved passages continues with Passage Verdeau, a marketplace for collectors of antiques and books.

31 bis Rue du Faubourg Montmartre to 6 Rue de la Grange Batelière (3e)

Bibliophiles are lured by the warm wood and colourful book spines of La Librairie du Passage. The bookstore is the heart of the passage, a haven for interrogators of reality.

A Passage with a Rotunda

Passage Brady

Passage Brady widens to create breathing space in the narrow walkway, and geometrical interest in the rotunda that covers it. The narrow walkway on the other side no longer exists; it was truncated when Haussmann created Boulevard de Strasbourg.

Passage Brady (1828), 33 Boulevard de Strasbourg (10e)

Passage with open-air atriums

Passage connecting Rue Tiquetonne and Rue Montmartre; 48 Rue Montmartre (2e)

Quartier de l’Horloge

During the late 1970s, an updated version of the Parisian passage opened: Le Quartier de l’Horloge (The Clock District) and its two Passages de l’Horloge.


The developer commissioned a monumental clock automaton (in which sculpted figures become animated at certain times, like a cuckoo clock). Defender of Time features a man with a sword, who at the top of each hour would fend off one of three attacking animals: a crab, a dragon, or a bird — and at times, all three.

Jacques Monestier, Le Défenseur du Temps

Decades later, the urban experiment could not fend off certain monetary and commercial forces that prevented it from functioning like a well-oiled automaton. Shops and restaurants moved away, and the arcades of the passage closed off. The clock, too expensive to maintain, has ceased working. It’s not clear whether it can be reset.


Paris again re-invented the passage at Beaupassage, an open-air arcade of high-end shops, restaurants, and sculptural art. An entrance to Beaupassage:

La Traversée (The Crossing): a huge cardboard forest sculpture lining a covered walkway leading into Beaupassage:

Artist: Eva Jospin, La Traversée, Beaupassage (7e)

Sculptures in the large, open-air courtyard:

Sculptor: Stefan Rinck

A tropical entrance to Beaupassage:

Next: A Paris Mashup

Camille Martin

Paris Wanderlust: A Paris Mashup

A Paris Mashup

Paris Wanderlust is drawing to a close. I hope that you’ve enjoyed my wanderings around the city. If you’re inclined to see more posts from the series, please visit the table of contents — or just wander around the blog.

For my penultimate post, below are photographs of some of the places that I’ve shared in Paris Wanderlust over the past couple of months. Just the pictures, no particular order.

Next: A Cul-de-Lampe of Time and Weather

Camille Martin

Paris Wanderlust: A Cul-de-Lampe of Time and Weather

A Cul-de-Lampe of Time and Weather

As the year winds down, I bid adieu to 2020 with my last post of Paris Wanderlust: images of timepieces and a barometer. Cheers to us all for a better 2021!

Salvador Dalí, Rue St-Jacques (5e)
Église St-Paul St-Louis (4e)
Église St-Eustache (1er)
Musée d’Orsay (1900) (7e)
Rue du Cherche-Midi (6e)
Église Notre-Dame du Travail, 59 Rue Vercingétorix (14e)
L’ Hôtel de Brienne, ancien Ministère de la Défense (1877) (15e)
Parc Georges-Brassens (15e)
Promenade Plantée sundial, “Le soleil luit pour tous” (The sun shines for everyone)
Gare de Lyon (12e)
Église St-Germain l’Auxerrois (1er)
Rue Geoffroy-St-Hilaire (5e)
Quartier de l’Horloge, Defender of Time (automaton clock) (3e)
Foucault’s Pendulum, Panthéon (5e)
Mairie Belfry, next to Église St-Germain l’Auxerrois (1er)

Back to the intro: Paris Wanderlust

Camille Martin

Anniversary of Kristallnacht

photo: Camille Martin

Buchenwald-Dora Memorial, Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris

The day that I visited the memorial, a crew was laying camera tracks for a documentary film. The tracks, ending at the memorial, unintentionally added a layer of horrific realism to the scene.

I dedicate this photo to the relatives of my partner, Jiri, who were killed in the Holocaust, and to his mother, Lilly, and his daughter’s grandmother, Dolly, who survived.

Camille Martin