Sunday, January 29, 2012


I am going to be living in Paris for the next six months and so a blog post on the French Railway House on Piccadilly seemed the most appropriate way to mark the transition from London. And so, one day when the light was nice and the road wasn't too busy, I took some pictures of the building from the traffic island and took notes on the Pevsner entry about the building. Unfortunately, my phone was stolen before I could transfer these notes and images to my computer, bringing my residence in London to a rather less poetic close than I had hoped.

Anyway, some information on the building remains in my mind, though it's hard to write about a little noticed modern building without an image to give the reader a clue. The main thing that's noteworthy about the French Railway House is its lettering, by Erno Goldfinger, which sticks out into the road and reads 'FRANCE' from either direction. It announces itself from far away and then as you move closer the space between the letters expands; this lettering evokes the excitement conjured up by the announcement of a foreign country and then the widening space encourages you to stretch out the word in your mind and think of all the experiences you could have in France.

It does more than one would ever think lettering could, and I think a big part of this is that the French Railway House itself is fairly unassuming, with a grey concrete facade that you can project your dreams onto as if they were films. It's the word 'FRANCE' that you notice as you walk, but if you stop you can see the words 'French Railway House' placed higher up and it's as if it's telling you the railway is the way to make these daydreams turn into reality.

So, anyway, I'm moving to Paris for six months. I can't really make sense of it. It's very sudden and I'm really scared it'll be really hard to get a job and a bit lonely not knowing anybody, but I suppose if there's any point at which one can do this then it's now. I'm planning to try to teach English or give tours of Paris to tourists and I'll probably spend most of my spare time looking at buildings and reading Louis Aragon.

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