Which way will Paris go?

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Counterproposal thesis by Connor Moran in fifth year at Notre Dame. (Connor Moran)

Two items regarding the direction of Paris. First is a plea from architectural theorist Leon Krier that Paris’s Mayor Hidalgo find someone other than Dominique Perrault to redesign the portion of the Ile de la Cité (site of Notre Dame cathedral) from which French courts are moving. They are slated to occupy a tragic blotch by Renzo Piano on the edge of Paris. The city’s legal establishment fought in court to avoid the move into his cheesy tower, but failed. Perrault’s incompetence is affirmed by his design for the regrettable new national library a decade or so ago (see bottom image).

With all that’s going on in Paris, it seems like we won’t have it anymore, and damn soon, unless the city and its leaders reverse the direction of the future of the City of Light. The second item on this post shows the way.

It is a counterproposal by Connor Moran, a graduate of Notre Dame (the univesity, not the cathedral) now at Ferguson and Shamamian, in New York, for the Rue de Rivoli side of La Samaritaine (the other side faces the Seine, and seems out of danger, at least for now). The famous department store is being butchered by the Pritzker winning architecture firm SANAA. Moran’s elegant alternative for the Rue de Rivoli side is above. The leftmost panel is the insensitive (to use the gentlest word) proposal by (IN)SANAA (my own titular reinterpretation). Below is Leon Krier’s SOS. Both of these items come to me courtesy of Mary Campbell Gallagher, of SOS Paris and a founder of the International Coalition for the Preservation of Paris.

Here is Moran’s description of his project, which has apparently already won him (congratulations!) the Stanford White Award from the New York chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art:

The outcome of my study is ultimately to be determined by how the Parisian public receive my thesis project. I will be following in the footsteps of traditional architects such as Quinlan Terry in London and Leon Krier in Luxembourg, who have successfully crafted arguments against the modernization of such iconic traditional European cities. S.O.S. Paris hopes to use my project as a visual tool that will inspire more people to argue against the corruption of traditional Paris and ultimately aid in the creation of preservation laws that prevent future disregard for the city’s historical and artistic development.

Here is Krier’s “C’est an stitch-up” (a piece hopefully not behind BD magazine’s paywall), calling on the mayor, and France’s president, to rethink what seems likely to overtake Ile de la Cité. Below are Gallagher’s thoughts on the same subject:

The President of France and the Mayor of Paris have chosen the worst possible architect to plan the redesign of the ancient Ile de la Cité in the center of Paris, site of the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Dominique Perrault proved how perversely incompetent he is when he designed the new National Library in the Thirteenth Arrondissement, the Bibliotheque Mitterrand. Believe it or not, he placed the book stacks in glass-walled skyscrapers, literally cooking the books. The authorities rushed to install shutters. And that’s forgetting the deck outside, slippery when wet. Read what Leon Krier says about Perrault and the history and future of the Ile de la Cité.

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(Please excuse the confused structure of this post; I am being pressed to have dinner at my dear mother-in-law’s here in Providence. Gotta rush! Sorry!)

About David Brussat

For a living, I edit the writing of some of the nation's leading architects, urbanists and design theorists. This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. My freelance writing and editing on that topic and others addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, and a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to invest your prose with even more style and clarity, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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