The Morrison Hotel Mystery
The death of Jim Morrison is not the only mystery in the Rue Beautreillis. On this street where the leader of The Doors spent the last few months of his life and where he (probably) died, another door stands curiously alone. But what is it?
The last bastion standing
Today only one significant element of the city’s 19th century fortifications remains standing. Where is the Bastion n°1 and what purpose does it serve today?
The World's Oldest Surviving Basketball Court
How did a game invented by the YMCA in America cross the Atlantic in the late 19th century, and why has this Paris court survived so long?
Monday, 30 December 2013
I hope that next year I will still be able to publish such a list and not just simply reproduce the only 5 posts of the year!
The list is in no particular order.
Tuesday, 24 December 2013
Keeping with tradition, I have also added a few notes for each post to explain why I chose the subject, why I think it worked and how the story developed.
I was also happy to note that reader numbers for the articles were a good percentage higher than the top 5 from last year. If my output is declining, I’m glad to see that my audience remains interested in what I do manage to produce!
Friday, 20 December 2013
Wednesday, 27 November 2013
As I mentioned previously, the Invisible City concept is all about being curious and keeping your eyes open, and having the desire to hunt out and recount the forgotten stories of your own personal environment. I'm assured that Lyon - a place that I personally have never visited - is an excellent invisible city with a very wide range of potential material!
Wednesday, 20 November 2013
Thomas Chatterton Williams’ article for the paper, ‘How hipsters ruined Paris’, is a smartly observed piece which managed to get under the skin of both Parisians and imported Americans – quite an achievement in itself. It is however let down by a glaring oversight. The writer laments the falling of one of the city’s bastions and yet seems completely unaware of the fact that he is a soldier in the invading army.
Tuesday, 5 November 2013
Like the majority of cemeteries in Paris, the La Villette graveyard was originally created to serve the needs of a small village community on the outskirts of Paris. The cemetery we see today is actually the fourth one in this particular village, the growing suburb having quickly filled the other three (which were all abandoned then built over).
Thursday, 24 October 2013
"At Crop the Block, we adore Paris" declares the team on the website. Not just any Paris though, and certainly not the caricatural 'ville musée' seen in thousands of You Tube clips. The Crop The Block ethos is the promotion of "a vibrant Paris, where each district has its own life, style and personality."
Friday, 11 October 2013
Wednesday, 25 September 2013
The tunnel is the second place linked to Napoléon III I visited during the weekend, but it has very few similarities with the Cité Napoléon. Whereas that site, an experiment in social housing, was concerned largely with the hygienist ideals of light and air, this storage tunnel near the Parc de Bercy is tenebrous and fetid. But it is also apparently worth preserving.
Tuesday, 17 September 2013
The first, the Cité Napoléon is the better-known of the two. Situated on the Rue Rochechouart in the 9th arrondissement, it was the first attempt to create decent housing for the working classes in Paris.
Friday, 6 September 2013
Tuesday, 27 August 2013
Wednesday, 14 August 2013
Wednesday, 31 July 2013
This new walk, created in association with Pocket Guide, takes you across the the city's westernmost arrondissement, but is also partly a walk through two villages that stood just outside of Paris until the middle of the 19th century; Auteuil and Passy.
Wednesday, 3 July 2013
Reported in breathless detail by the press the next day, the incident itself was as banal as it was pointless.
Wednesday, 26 June 2013
Situated to the north-east of Paris and surrounded by the kinds of towns where nobody chooses to live, Le Bourget struggles to retain any glamour today. Nevertheless, it is still one of Europe's leading airports for private jets, and can also now boast an exclusive Gogasian art gallery in one of its old hangers.
Tuesday, 4 June 2013
Saturday, 1 June 2013
You need a lot of imagination to visualise a forest in this location. It looks more like an oversight or a service road, squeezed between what was until recently a wasteland and the city's périphérique motorway. The wasteland - or friche - has given way to a strip of modern office blocks and a new multi-screen cinema that will open in a couple of months time, but the motorway still announces its presence with a continuous rumble.
Thursday, 16 May 2013
Friday, 26 April 2013
Thursday, 11 April 2013
Wednesday, 27 March 2013
Running north to south through the heart of Neuilly, a town that touches Paris's western edges, is the Boulevard du Château. Although difficult to track down today, the chateau this road refers to once occupied 170 hectares of land and dominated the river beneath. After wandering aimlessly around the somewhat sterilised streets of the town, I eventually find the remains of the building, not on the Boulevard or Rue du Château, but on the corner of the Boulevard de la Saussaye and the Boulevard d'Argenson.
Tuesday, 19 March 2013
Monday, 11 March 2013
Saturday, 2 March 2013
The map, originally created to accompany an exhibition held last year in Paris, plots the lyrical locations of over 200 songs that have Paris as a theme. It's a simple, fun tool to use, allowing you to zoom in on specific districts, then to click and listen to the songs.
Friday, 22 February 2013
Since I began posting on Invisible Paris it has always been clear to me that there are certain subjects for which the blog format is not suitable. These slippery topics have stretched out over months, lead me on tangents in and out of Paris, and have never yet been published - until now.
Friday, 15 February 2013
In what is already Europe's most crowded capital city, it is perhaps an unenviable honour to be labelled the densest building in Paris. Though undoubtedly hefty and imposing, the building that claims this crown is not without a certain grace and charm - and one or two surprises!
Designed by the architect Léon Nafilyan* in the 1930s, the construction takes up a long strip of the Rue Raynouard - a residential artery that lies parallel to the Rue de Passy in the 16th arrondissement. The design, sometimes labelled 'American style', has a density that is more often associated with city-centre office blocks, but it also shows how the modern style of architecture had been completely adopted by the middle-classes in this period.
Wednesday, 6 February 2013
Wednesday, 30 January 2013
Around an hour before sundown they begin to gather. Not in trees or on rooftops but instead on the metallic branches of an giant television antenna. A clandestine and somewhat dangerous-looking installation, it nevertheless provides the perfect look-out spot across the city.
They arrive in groups of 15-20 birds, feral packs that have spent the day scavanging across different parts of the city. The birds jostle for position on the arial, before setting out on their mass pre-bedtime swooping, twisting display.
Sunday, 27 January 2013
Thursday, 17 January 2013
Sunday, 13 January 2013
Far more modern was the glass construction he built alongside for filming. Although it may have been unbearably hot in summer, the idea was that it would let in a maximum amount of natural light, a necessity in a time before sophisticated lighting rigs on sets.
Saturday, 5 January 2013
In the 1980s, Paris and its surrounding towns developed a taste for the post-modern architecture of Ricardo Bofill and his disciples from the 'Le Taller de Arquitectura' movement. To see how their schemes fit into today's city, I took a walk around the Place de Catalogne.
Like most architects, Bofill is not somebody who has ever lacked ambition. Asked to redevelop an area behind the Montparnasse train station, Bofill - who was already behind a series of mega developments in the Paris suburbs - proposed 'les Echelles du Baroque', a huge and rather pretentiously-named apartment block.
Curving around a roundabout, and spiraling backwards into two distinct plazas, the development contains the considerable total of 274 apartments. Nevertheless, forced to respect planning restrictions in Paris it contains only 7 floors (despite being in the shadow of the 59-floor Montparnasse tower, built 10 years earlier).
Walking around the development, the first thing that strikes me is how dated it looks. This is not necessarily a bad thing - after all, art deco or art nouveau architecture is equally date-stamped, but this scheme was supposed to be a timeless one, a reminder of classical forms and structures.
The answer probably was that it flattered them (Bofill cites both Mansard and Ledoux as his key influences) and it was hoped that it would change public attitudes towards architecture following the uncompromising constructions of the 1960s and 70s. Indeed, Bofill claimed that he wanted his constructions to reconcile the public with modern architecture and to create 'monuments for the people'.
Outlining his motivations, Bofill states that he tries "...to decipher the spontaneous movements and behaviour of people, and to detect the needs of change that they might unconsciously express." But if these desires and wishes are never consciously expressed, how could he be so sure that his take on 'classical' city designs - which he claims are embedded in humanity's collective conscience and memory - are what people really want?
The problem is that none of this seems entirely convincing. It may be modelled on baroque designs and feature classical Doric columns, but it is - as writer Andrew Ayers put it - "a Legoland 'Versailles for the people' classicism" in pre-fabricated concrete.
In many ways it is an architecture that seems more suited to the new towns where Bofill first worked in France, places such as Marne la Vallée (the Palacio d'Abraxas) and Saint Quentin en Yvelines (les Arcades du Lac) that had no specific identity and were looking for something a little regal (whilst also keeping costs low). In Paris, Bofill's architecture can always be compared to original classical models, and quickly revealed as the pastiche it is.
Although Bofill's desire has always been to create neighbourhoods by stitching disparate entities together into the city fabric, there is little evidence that any kind of community has developed here in the 25 years since this project was finished.
It is in fact something of a forgotten zone, a passageway for cars crossing the city. Indeed, although the development has the curved form of an Italianate piazza, it remains simply the edge of a roundabout.
Bofill's golden age in France has clearly passed. His group has produced very little in Paris and the surrounding area in the last 20 years, suggesting that this was an post-modern experiment that never really worked.