Saturday, June 23, 2012

Briefly: Valencia, Spain

I went to Valencia this weekend to see my brother who is visiting Spain during his university holidays. This is the first time I've been to Spain, and I really liked it, though I was so afraid of my inability to speak Spanish that for the first twenty-four hours I ate only jambon iberico and bread.

Valencia overflows with decoration, from the facades of baroque mansions to the interiors of space age metro stations. It's in some ways a disjointed city. Areas compete in the same way that a scribbled tag and a refined shop sign compete; strong identities shout to be heard, struggle to push one another aside and never quite succeed. The city feels a little like a Battle of the Bands contest, with different personalities displayed on multiple stages.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Architecture: Ocean-Liners in Paris and Boulogne-Billancourt

This is a reworking of two of my articles on architecture for AngloINFO Paris, on Pierre Patout's 15th Arrondissement paquebot building and Georges-Henri Pingusson's treatment of the same theme in Boulogne-Billancourt, both constructed in 1934.

Georges-Henri Pingusson, 5 Rue Denfert-Rochereau.
Cruise ships were a frequent influence on modern architecture, with flat white walls, interior balconies, simple lines and stepped terraces often inspired by transatlantic travel. Oceanliners were glamorous, like international travel itself, and so provided architects with inspiration in combining luxury and compact living. Often you have to really look at a building to see the influence of ocean-liners, but at other times you're sitting on the tram, tired and staring vacantly out the window, and your eyes almost fall out of your head as a huge ship sails toward you. 

This is the case with Pierre Patout's apartment building on Boulevard Victor in Paris's 15th Arrondissement.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Babar Exhibition at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs, and the Politics of Kingdoms for Children

The Babar exhibition at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs presents a charming set of images and a lot of material to think about, though ultimately failing to look at Babar as more than a child’s entertainment means that it doesn’t do justice to its fascinating subject. It is, however, an opportunity to look at the original drawings and to see glimpses of Babar from across decades, by both Jean and Laurent de Brunhoff, gathered side by side.

This is a relatively small and uncomplicated exhibition, but nonetheless quite a sweet one. The Musée des Arts Decoratifs have primarily pitched their Babar exhibition at children, even to the point of hanging drawings at very low heights, which is somewhat disappointing. Both Babar, and the drawings in this exhibition, are likely to give as much pleasure to adults as to children, if not more.


L’Histoire de Babar, le Petit Éléphant is an unusual book for children. Illustrated by Jean de Brunhoff in 1931, a young elephant named Babar witnesses a hunter killing his mother, runs from the forest and finds a city. Babar acquires clothes and goes to school and when he returns to the jungle becomes King, following the death of the previous King. He marries his cousin, Celeste, and founds the city of Celesteville; the other elephants begin to dress in the fashions of early twentieth century France.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Le Corbusier's 'Cabanon' at Le Bon Marché

If you’re not already mad at the sky for being cloudy, go to the small exhibition on Le Corbusier’s beach cabin at Le Bon Marché, on until June 23rd.

The furniture department at Le Bon Marché is generally something of a museum of twentieth century design, but at the moment their displays are centered around a reproduction of Le Cabanon, the small wooden beach house that Le Corbusier built for himself and his wife at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin in 1952. Only eleven square metres, it fits neatly under the department’s leadlight roof.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Lovely Cinemas: La Pagode, 7th Arrondissement

I haven't written anything on this blog recently (though I have written on Len Lye and the Venice Biennial for NZ News UK and Docks en Seine for AngloINFO Paris), mostly as I've been really busy and also really tired -I barely managed to buy groceries today before curling up in a corner. Luckily, I had more energy when a friend visited last week. We ate pizza by the Canal Saint Martin, met goats at Versailles and were invited to (and attended) a fashion school défilé. We also went to see On The Road at La Pagode.

La Pagode is a small cinema housed in a pagoda. It completely lives up to expectations.