Friday, August 7, 2009

The sun shone warmly on Paris. The very air was saturated with a sense of poignancy. All the sounds of guitarists on bridges and of jazz concerts and of the metro rush combined to form one bitter-sweet harmony which said adieu.

Though I already have plans to return in the winter, every moment was full of lasts. It reminded me of the Killers' Exitlude. I would have embedded it here, but is illegal in Turkey, where I now am.

I went to the Orangerie Museum with Seung-Jin and Gary. There was a fair in the Tuileries and everyone was bathed in the orange glow of summer sun. The architecture of the museum is remarkable, complete with a I.M-Pae-like attention to detail. The environmental design and signage was intricate and stark.

There were giant Monet paintings, and there were a number of Cezannes. I could stand in front of a Cezanne painting for a whole day without getting bored.

But this beauty was, of course, expected from a place such as this. It merely produced raised eyebrows and nods. What was unexpected was the work of a more contemporary artist, Didier Paquignon, born in Paris in 1958. I am including here some samples. He is a master of scale, of manipulation of color in a way that is realistic but at the same time says, "I am a painting." I love that! His depictions could be Cezzane-like but his subjects are so modern and machine-age.

And, of course, every day there was a concert at the Hotel de Ville, the festive music from which echoed out into the Marais and Rue de Rivoli. I loved the fact that the stage design incorporated the sculpture so that it seems there were placed there for the concert. It reminds me of the treatment of the tigers at Nassau Hall for Commencement.

And the building that never ceases to inspire and amaze me, the Centre Pompidou. The esplanade in front is a phenomenon in itself. It is the perfect "public space" that would excite any urban planner or architecture historian. Artists, musicians, performers, all gather here and amuse and entertain. In the backdrop are the exquisite, vibrant colors of the "architecture." This is the place Gordon Matta-Clark chose to inact his anarchitecture. I wish that were still here.

We went to the Sacre Coeur, and looked out over all of Paris, curated and preserved like a museum, but alive with the spirit of the 21st century. I had a moment of epiphany and relized that I am secretly a bourgeois, posing as a socilaist. I love Paris, and yet I am setting off to write a year-long thesis about its struggle as an urban metropolitan center, with regard to the challenges posed by the public housing arhitecture in the suburbs.

And quite randomly, we happened to walk upon the Tour de France which, in its final-final stage on the way to the Champs Elysees, was passing through St. Michel. The roads were blocked off and we we saw, first the cars and police motorcycles, and then the cyclists, zoom by.

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