Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A controversial building


Here is the building that shelters the Ministry of Culture and Communication. As you can see - or imagine -, it's an old building that has been renewed and surrounded by what is often called "iron lace". Needless to say that it's highly controversial. So controversial, that the heirs of the architect who built the building in the first place (Antoine Vaudoyer) sued the one that made the lace (Francis Soler) claiming that Vaudoyer's copyright was infringed. They did not win... If you come to Paris, have a look (it's not far from Le Louvre), it's located 182 rue Saint Honoré.

74 comments:

  1. One of the things I like most about your blogs is the way you pick up on subjects such as politics and social history and it is never afraid of showing the truth.

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  2. I don't think I like the "iron lace".

    It makes an intersting photo, but not so much a beautiful building.

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  3. Goodness this is surprising, I am shocked they were able to do it. I don't like it, do you Eric? Well done, Rose!!! Yay.

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  4. Can you see the smug look on my face :)?

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  5. Yes; noted he he! You be smug. You deserve it.

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  6. Lynn, yesterday you were even smugger than me! :)

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  7. It was a good idea to do that (I mean the "iron lace"), and your picture give a good view of this building.
    It's amazing like the politicians are always criticizing the artists' daring... It was the same 20 years ago, in the Hotel de Ville, when Buren made his "Deux plateaux". It was a scandal. Now if you ask anybody, he/she would say that the Hotel de Ville without its striped columns is not the Hotel de Ville...

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  8. Yesterday she wore wheels and a robe, she was definitely mthan you. LOL.

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  9. Is there a point to having put this lace around the building? Does it glow in the dark or something? I guess I'm not a fan.

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  10. he he i was. I admit it! I think each Golden Finger Winner has the right to be smug. Where's Michael sloped off to? lol

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  11. No offense, guile, but the Buren Column at Palais Royal are ugly, too. But I guess if i had to choose between that and a parking lot.. I guess I'd go with the parking lot. I'm not sure what you mean by the 2 plateaux, do you mean these 2 things on the side of the place de l'hotel de Ville? I don't know, pour moi c'est à prendre ou à laisser.

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  12. So I heard...did you wear the black Jimmy Choos I picked for you Lynn?

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  13. I didn't know you had picked some. At your blog you mean? Well, goodness if they're Choos, i would have worn them yes!

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  14. Lynn, A while back you said you would prefer the black ones...:) It was a few days ago.
    I m off to bed now. I need to get up early tomorrow and write a 3000 word story for my 11am lesson...not looking good!
    Night night...

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  15. We've walked past, been intrigued by, and wondered about this building so thanks for this information. I liked the effect, the conversation between old and new, but I could see how people would be bothered by it. I do wonder whether it's purely cosmetic/artistic, or whether the metalwork is part of some structural changes needed.

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  16. Lynn I wrote you wore wheels and not heels yesterday for the winner ceremony, it's a huge slip of the tongue LOL!!

    Tomate, les "Deux Plateaux", c'est ce qu'on appelle en fait les colonnes de Buren. Le problème de cette oeuvre c'est qu'elle n'a vraiment "marché" qu'un an: elle est fabriquée sur deux niveaux, un souterrain et un extérieur. Le souterrain est constitué de fontaines et des lumières que l'on peut apercevoir sous les grilles, le dispositif a fonctionné très peu de temps, les canalisations se sont cassées et n'ont jamais été remplacées, pareil pour les lampes. Il faut imaginer l'oeuvre avec le bruit de l'eau et une lumière dans les tons jaunes. Le "deuxième" aspect ce sont précisemment les colonnes elles-mêmes. Elles sont les "vestiges" contemporains d'une ancienne architecture grecque repensée et réactualisée. J'aime bien le principe. Mais l'oeuvre est à l'abandon et est menacée d'être détruite par le misnistère de la culture (voir toute la polémique autour en ce moment); Buren s'y oppose farouchement en tant que propriétaire (intellectuel) de l'oeuvre. Ce qui est normal.
    After this spiel, I hope that you're French Tomate!! :)

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  17. Got it, Gilles, thanks! Well, maybe Sarko will take a karcher to it or something and put an end to the debates. ;)

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  18. Ah yes, i remember those wheels, erm heels, Rose, thanks yes! I wish you well with your story. Anything at my site which can assist? lol

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  19. Gilles?? Oooh please Tomate...
    It's Guille, like Guillemette.
    About Sarko,I won't be surprised...hehe.

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  20. Uh, hmmm, uh, well, not so sure about this metal lattice design...perhaps in a certain light it adds a bit of mystery?

    Congratulations Rose!!! and good luck with you paper.

    Darn, I missed the Oscar after party at PDP. The red gowns, the sparkles, Nicole’s necklace, loved, loved, loved Marion's amazing gown (and the pure emotion in her acceptance speech), she is a fine actress and Javier (ohhhh, he is sexy, smart, strong, and oh so cool), and so glad "Falling Slowly" won best song (did we really need to experience 3 songs from "Enchanted?") Jessica Alba was gorgeous in her plum gown, and Helen Mirren is pure class. :)

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  21. Nice shot and great story! I remember this building from my trips to Paris. It actually looks pretty cool during sunset.

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  22. Eric I've seen this building and I loved it but I can understand why it's not appealing to everyone. But to cut away for the moment, we (us Francophiles in the US) want to know exactly what Sarkozy said to the guy in the crowd today that generated all the buzz. We've got what we believe it was a watered down translation on the US news. We're thinking it was a bit more rude than the translation we got. So what's the scoop?

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  23. Eric, I think it's a mark of a real photographer (and not just a picture-taker) when you put emotion or opinion into your photo. You've done so here, no? By the angle you chose, or by shooting at a tilt?

    It's a great photo, and my guess is you're not crazy about the iron lace, or at least you haven't decided how you feel about it.

    I'm thrilled when I see something on the blog that I saw in Paris! John and I saw this, on the one day we had to ourselves. Our best day there.

    But I admit I prefer the old stuff. I still haven't gotten used to the pyramid at the Louvre.

    I haven't watched my Oscar recording yet, so I look forward to Ms. Cotillard's speech. I'm terrible--haven't seen most of the movies.

    Congratulations, Rose!

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  24. Ok, I'll go out on a limb, I like it. At first glance I thought it was really ugly, but I find it brave and well done. I'd like to know more about it actually. The metal looks shiny when you see it and not cheap.

    Stuart, I just heard this news about Sarkozy late last night before going to bed. As I understand, he just called some guy a "pauvre con" or "poor jerk". I guess a "con" can be a little worse, but it's nothing too bad.

    If you want to see the entire reportage, here's a vieo clip.

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  25. Wow! My husband and I saw this building while in Paris this past summer. It was a gloomy day, and then the sun decided to make an appearance! The building caught the light and was totally breathtaking! I could not get a great picture, thank you for yours!

    Eric, I have been a fan for the past six months, and your pictures are always "just so!"

    Thank you for keeping Paris alive in my heart... even in Ohio!

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  26. During a conversation with Laure on the Seine, I described how a friend of mine was "inspired" by this building to create a design that he used for something else. It really is visually fascinating.

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  27. Like many others, I like the "effect" of this iron lattice, but I am not entirely sure about the aesthetic worth - or, in fact, the need for it - given that it obscures (some might say defaces) the original building to such a disturbing degree. I say "disturbing" because it seems to sit very much on the surface of the stone facade beneath it, like metal graffiti, detracting from the subdued elegance of its host.

    I assume it wasn't Soler's intention to compete with Vaudoyer's design. Or was it? Perhaps we shouldn't care one way or the other. I don't know. What I am sure of is that the novelty of this spidery encrustation is initially quite disarming - but, ultimately, a little irritating inasmuch as I would rather see a new building incorporating this concept rather than see it used by a contemporary architect so unsympathetically - and, in my opinion, unnecessarily - to mummify the work of a predecessor.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not against radical stylistic juxtapositions: the Louvre redevelopment, for example, is a shining example of just how well such hybridity can work. But here, I'm afraid, I'm not so impressed. Am I too much of a purist, or is it that I simply believe that if it ain't broke...? Also, how frustrating must it now be to look out of those windows!

    Needless to say, controversy might well be the true purpose of this curious project, which is neither ugly nor beautiful, neither entirely reprehensible nor entirely laudable. An ambiguous statement on behalf of an equally ambivalent era, perhaps? As always, only time will tell.

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  28. This building was between our hotel and our closest metro stop when we stayed in Paris, so we walked past it several times a day. I liked the effect a lot (which is odd, because I generally prefer older architecture to modern).

    Although, we still laugh about the pair of tourists we passed one day - they were gazing up at the building with mouths hanging open, and then one turned to the other, and said in confusion, "Do they do that on PURPOSE?"

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  29. I don't like it - it reminds me of wearing braces in junior high - yuck!

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  30. I am all for artist's expression, but I don't like the iron lace at all! To me, it looks like construction scaffolding--at first glance, I thought that was what it was.
    I guess I am a bit old-fashioned, I just love the old architecture in Paris so much and this seems to add nothing and take so much away...

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  31. I'm impressed with Louis London's take (Luciano Crispino): ...metal graffitti..., unnecessary mummification of a predecessor, ambiguous ambivalence; also with those who mention how much like temporary construction scaffolding it is; the way it picks up light (I remember extraordinary disorientation one night: "What is THAT going on?").

    I think sometimes that Paris is in danger of having as much life and veracity as a Disneyland Main Street: little more that a staged backdrop for tourists. After all, this building is housing the Ministry of Culture and Communication, and, yes the descendants of Vaudoyer have a right to be outraged, but I'll think of this disquieting, too-tight skin as a manifestation of a kind of creativity that should be being promulgated on the interior of those strangely trussed walls. The alternative might be slow petrifaction.

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  32. J'aime beaucoup cet immeuble. Je l'ai vu pendant mes vanaces a Paris en ete mais je ne connaissais pas l'histoire. Merci beaucoup pour ce photo.
    (Pardonnez-moi, je ne parle pas bien anglais, c'est pourqoi j'ecris en francais)

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  33. No i don't like it at all, it looks to me like a giant has wound a huge ball of wool around the building and sprayed it in cheap silver. Yuk.

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  34. Another information about the reason of Soler's idea : Vaudoyer's building lays next to a horrible 70s building. When the Minsitry of Culture decided to settle there, in these two buildings, it was looking for a way to create a sort of unity between them two, without putting down the 70s one. So this lace is Soler's answer, running along every façades. The effect is quite correct on the modern one and, as Eric and everyone here noticed, quite controversial on Vaudoyer's, one of the rare and a quite impressive Art Déco buildings in that area.

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  35. This looks like a fire code violation to me! How would I get out a window if there were a fire? I too think it looks quite awful. Like some kids got happy with "silly string".

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  36. What I love about the French and their approach to architecture is that they are adventurous and willing to try almost anything!

    Personally I think the adornment to this building does'nt work, but I applaud the attempt to be different.

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  37. Bibi wonders what it looks like from the inside looking OUT. Maybe it's appealing from that angle.

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  38. Funny that some mentioned that the lighting gave a special look to this building cause I was thinking that at first glance I don´t like it, but with an special ilummination it could become interesting.

    Guille, I LOVE your explanation about the Buren columns!!! Thank you so much for it, what a great thing to have an expert in art here. Very interesting to know that this ouevre was supposed to be different but because it is abandoned it is not very appreciated.
    I like it though, as well as the Louvre pyramid (which, by the way, I just heard on the radio today that it was elected the best museum of the world according to Trip Advisor). I usually like it when something classic makes a beautiful ensemble with something modern.

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  39. I really like it. But to really get it, you must experience it, I suppose. I've heard it said that no one accessorize better then the French. Or was it they are fashion forward?

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  40. Congrats Rose! Watched the video Michael, thx. Braces indeed, Pont Girl, but I got a laugh.
    I am moved when I see this bldg. as the lace reminds me of a modern take of the famous French ironwork balconies from yrs. past.

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  41. This is what I love about art. Everyone's right.

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  42. It looks awful. It's like permanent scaffolding.

    That's not to say the photo's bad though.

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  43. Nobody likes this building? I find it very interesting, modern, different from the classical buildings of the area...
    To change your mind about the use of the iron in the façades of edifices, take a look on the front of the Institut du Monde Arabe, made by Jean Nouvel who was the architect. It's really different from this one but it shows this passion for the metal in the decor of architecture few years ago.

    http://www.galinsky.com/buildings/ima/index.htm

    Monica, I didn't think that you will understand my comment about the Buren's columns because I wrote it without making efforts for the English speakers :S. I was too much tired to translate and to speak about art is easier in French! Nice to see that you understand French as much as I understand Portuguese LOL (it's not true I admit...)

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  44. Mmmm, it's not that I don't like the "effect" of this lattice. Rather, it's just that it seems like a band-aid solution to a problem that really required surgery.

    The extra information provided by gg seems to back me up in this, while pont girl's "braces" metaphor is right in the money. Now, if they had had the resources to demolish the "horrible 70s building" next door, or at least provide it with a glittering new façade like that of the Institut du Monde Arabe, then perhaps the coupling of old and new might have been more palatable.

    Having said that, I can appreciate the fact that it looks spectacular at night. I can even applaud the instigators of this project for their adventurousness. I can not, however, see it as a winning solution, simply because the well-intentioned enhancement of an ugly building has cost its neighbor so much of its original appeal.

    Neither is this the equivalent, architecturally speaking, of the Centre Pompidou's (in)famous multi-coloured exoskeleton of pipes and scaffolding. This, if you will pardon the expression, is more a case of architectural parisitism - which, I might add, is not inherently unethical, as long as all parties are in agreement as to the nature and extent of the changes to be made (which in this case, as Eric has pointed out, they were not).

    And then there is the matter of taste...but we won't go there.

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  45. For the sake of those who must spend time inside this building it is a good thing that they let Soler at it rather than Christo.

    I love the clever writing here: braces in junior high; kids gone wild with silly string; wrapped yarn sprayed a tacky silver; the helpful comparisons to Jean Nouvel; ironwork balconies as one might find in French Quarter New Orleans...

    The building has inspired our desire to communicate, both accord and discord, about culture.

    I wonder if there will be a loud opposition of people yelling, "Desecration!" if in fifty years or so the unnatural metallic excrescence is for some reason to be excised.

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  46. So Lynn... have you got your fingers ready ;)

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  47. Christo and Jeanne-Claude's wrapping of the Pont Neuf (1975-1985):

    http://www.christojeanneclaude.net/pn.shtml

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  48. Christo and his wrapped buildings.

    La confusion des genres, de l'artiste à l'architecte et vice versa. Voilà qui a déchaîné les foules parisiennes il y a 20 ans! Comme tout ce qui est nouveau, inhabituel et ose toucher au sacro-saint Paris. Mais peut être est-ce mieux de râler que de crier au génie devant des oeuvres qui de nos jours ne le méritent pas...

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  49. he he no i missed it. I was busy posting a Bad Hair photo of myself as a challenge from another blogger. Yep you can go and giggle, you have my blessing!

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  50. There has been much debate over recent years, particularly in academic circles, as to the pros and cons of reversing previous "tampering" with historically significant buildings and works of art. One of the main arguments is that all changes - good or bad - need to be respected, and defended, as they are as much part of the structure or object in question as anything that might rightly or wrongly be considered part of the artist's intentions. This, to me, seems a fact, not a justification.

    Of course, each case needs to be individually assessed, so there are no easy answers, and what may strike a contemporary audience as hideous may well charm the knickers off their descendants. I guess the real issue is whether an alteration is reversible or not, in the event that history gives the present a thumbs down. Fortunately, Soler's addition is cosmetic, and can be either preserved or peeled off, depending on the views of future cultural historians - and, dare I say it, citizens.

    Me? I like to keep an open mind on the whole thing in the belief that no disagreement about art is every really resolved once and for all.

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  51. Guille you have a great potencial as a portuguese speaker! Seriously!
    I take french classes so I'm slowly learning. But I believe that whatever language we are learning, it's always much easier to understand it than speaking it.

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  52. If you understand a few Latin roots, as in French or Spanish, you can pick up the general meaning. Even in Portuguese.

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  53. Monica if you want me to write in French to permit you to improve it, I will do it!;)
    The fact of having learnt the Latin and the Spanish helps, certainly. The problem with the Portuguese is...the accent... I don't catch a word.

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  54. Oooh i would like that, too, now and again, Guille, but maybe you should check with Eric as i think he likes English to be spoken. ?

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  55. Guille that would be fine by me too, now and again like Lynn said. I don't think Eric would mind.
    The accents in Portuguese are such a bug, we find them a bit annoying too!

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  56. I would not allow myself to write in French, it's a bit unfair for the others... :S and this blog is above all for the foreigners,so nothing more normal that to speak English!
    But sometimes,when I will be too tired to translate, I hope Eric will not object if I write in French... ;)

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  57. Eric, My husband is an architect and agrees that this is one ugly building. Somehow we have missed it in our wanderings in Paris, but not the next time. We also agree that the 'lace' is beautiful perhaps you could export some to S.F. Thanks for your work. dd

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  58. Thanks for this photo. I love this building.

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  59. Thank-you Eric. This was the only building I couldn't remember the name of. I took a photo of it when I visited in September last year, but couldn't find any info about it on the internet.

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  60. nice pic... I like the lace but if i designed that building and I passed away-- i could see how my 'heirs' would protest someone else's work covering mine especially if I'm no longer around... sort of like in GRAFFITI-- no matter how crappy someone else's 'tag' on a wall is disrespectful... i dare say- its sacrilegious!

    btw- awesome blog!

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  61. I saw this on my trip to Paris, and have to say that this building did look pretty. As a New Yorker, it's not too radical or anything. ;)

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  62. On my birthday I went to a cafe near this building and I was wondering what it was all about. Thanks for the info.

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  63. I was in Paris two weeks ago and happened to pass by this, I didn't get it, thought it look horrible - then I saw the Pompadiu Centre for Modern Art and then this didn't look quite so bad!

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