Phase 02 Paris


_the birthplace of the flâneur

[ preface ]

I went to Paris, not to bring back a piece of Paris, but to learn from the different spatial qualities the city offers. To investigate the potentials and recognise how city conditions are developed.

When contemplating Paris, the images that spring to mind are of vibrant street life. In Paris, life is lived on the streets; it is at the cafés, in the galleries and bars. Paris encompasses a vast number of public gathering points; the very city is built as a public space, constructed for the meeting of people, encouraging interaction.

Apartment buildings displayed and oriented a collective that communicated fully with the public street [...] The space of early nineteenth-century Parisian buildings mingled with the space of streets in concrete, quotidian ways.” [ Sharon Marcus: Seeing through Paris ] The streetscape changes throughout the day with the galleries and cafés. Most of the galleries have an open door policy and the cafés are more often than not, able to open their entire facade, inside and outside merge as the café-space flows into the streetscape.

Besides this, there is a wealth of small inner-courtyards opening towards the street. When exploring these you are in for a surprise, every once in a while they are not courtyards at all, but small passages. Courtyard or passage, here you will find small milieu, sometimes there is a café at others a gallery, a small gap leads to a bright opening arranged around a tree. It is this abundance of spatial experience that enhances the desire, the urge to discover the city.

The writers who represented the city to itself thus not only emphasized apartment houses as elements of Parisian landscape but also saw through the apartment house, treating it as a lens or as a point of view and not simply as an opaque visual object. In the process, they imagined apartment houses to be as transparent as they wanted the city to be.” [ Sharon Marcus: Seeing through Paris ]. I read this not as a longing for a literal transparency, but rather a phenomenal one, as described by Colin Rowe and Robert Slutzky. The quote holds no real value if it is understood as a desire for the literal transparency of the glasshouses. It is in the phenomenal transparency that real understanding lies. Here the threshold between the city, the public and the apartment, the private blurs resulting in the annexation of the apartment into the city.

The flâneur is from Paris. He drifts around in space, experiences the city with his body. “The crowd is the veil through which the familiar city beckons to the flâneur as phantasmagoria - now a landscape, now a room” [ Walter Benjamin: The Arcades Project ]

The flâneur turns the cityscape into landscape, the interior to exterior, whereby the city becomes an interior landscape at the will of the flâneur. Through the concept of similitude the flâneur holds an ability to superimpose space.

The discourse of urban observation described the apartment building as a typical and integral physical feature of the Parisian landscape and, strikingly, as a figure for the objects and activity of urban observation itself.” [ Sharon Marcus: Seeing through Paris ]. The quote furthers the conception of the apartment being an active, almost public part of the city and hereby also a territory for the flâneur.


_abandon birthplace of the flâneur

The passages of Paris seem caught in a duality between being this hidden places, a small hole in the facade which you will pass by without noticing and a place so aware of itself that it even has a big sign at its entrance.

Time has had an impact on the passages, in some way it seem that it has been at a stand still, these glass covered shortcuts seem obsolete. Moving through them I had a very hard time determine if all the shops were closed, or just waiting for something. The condition was either extremely well cared for, in such a way, that I felt almost alienated by it or they were falling in to ruins.


_a registration of and tool for my movement in paris

While in Paris, the first thing I acquired was a street map. I wanted to investigate my movement whilst there. When visiting a new city, it’s hard to from a comprehensive view of our movement, how much of the city have you really visited? You will often travel on the same roads repeatedly, therefore I decided to trace my movement, by drawing it onto my street map.

The map holds a lot of information as to where metros were entered and exited, the section-walk and the continuation of the connecting creatures of Parc de la Villette; these will all be more thoroughly explained in the following.


_moving through paris at the will of an underground landscape

After locating the segment of Paris, I prior to travelling there had investigated in model, I drew in the section extending it to the boundaries of ‘la peripherique’. Then I traced the last drawn line in my first eight metro-rides and put them at parallels to the complete sectionline, hereby putting the landscape of travelling through underground Paris back onto the city of Paris, thus providing me with a route through Paris.

I walked from the south-east to the north-west corner [ route on map #01 ] and whenever the sectionline intersected with a street on the map, I toke a picture, frontal perspective down the street in the direction that I was moving. Given the length of the section-walk, time has been embedded into the pictures, the first being taken at 16.14 and the last at 21.27.

It’s impossible to contemplate the 95 pictures from the section-walk at once, so to create ‘one picture’, I have collected ‘a slice’ of 15 mm from each of them and rejoined them. The first slice is taken from the far left side of the first picture and the last slice from the far right side of the last picture. In between the slice is moved at a constant level from left to right, ending at the far right edge of the last picture, transforming the picture-slices into one long picture.

The picture-slices are mounted onto trapezoid shaped wooden sticks, enabling them to bend and coil.

When unrolled into a straight line, the structure becomes unstable, and collapses. In order to prevent this collapse, it’s necessary to bend and twist it, creating a fluid moveable figure, with the capability to create spaces within itself. In a freeze-frame of this it’s easy to see the emergence of a building plan or section.

Parc de la villette

_celebrating points of stability

Parc de la Villette is no ordinary park, this place holds an innumerable number of events. All orchestrated around a 120 meter grid of red follies. These follies are neither buildings nor pavilions. They are creatures all with different personalities; there is the Gatekeeper, the Crane-operator, the Freak, the Judge, the Water-bearer and so on. They are calm points of reference in the chaos tying the park together; facilitating transition between structure and landscape. They allow for the path to run wild, winding through the landscape, building momentum, leaving piles of dirt, as it rounds corners producing events along its route.

I have named them, through the naming process the creatures come to life; they are fitted with a story just like the city and all the stories it holds. Realising this I have extended the grid into the city and continue the little stories at the coming intersection points. Just as the creatures met at intersection points and establish stability in the chaos that is the Parc de la Villette through a manifestation of the connecting grid-lines, I will in the city locate the grid points and draw a very physical spatial connection in these spaces.

I have continued the grid and the spirit of the creatures of Parc de la Villette into the city of Paris. Their sole concern is materialising the intersection, so I have localised the consecutive points on the grid by measuring the distance in steps and the direction on my compass [ see map #01 ], drawing the section of the place and then attempting to develop an architectural connection between the parts.

This resulted in a list of architectural possibilities, a catalogue of concepts of connection. Some have a recognisable architectural form where as others are moving manly on the plan of concepts, and still need work in order to come into a inhabitable form.

NOTE;  I have since learnt that in the original design Bernard Tschumi had envisioned the follies to continue the grid into the city, my exercise becomes an alteration of his original concept.


_a subterranean landscape

On entering the metro system running beneath the streets of Paris, you are connected to all of Paris entirely through this extensive network of tunnels and tracks.

A metro system is the easiest way of getting around in large cities, but it comes at the cost of lost orientation. To reach the platform you move through a series of halls and corridors; twists and turns, that render you unable to determine your starting position and/or direction.

Riding the train it becomes even more difficult to determine your direction, you only feel shifts in direction, vertical and horizontal, but you are not able to relate these coherently to the city as a whole, there being no point of reference. It’s like moving through a hidden landscape, a landscape constructed by the interaction between the movement of the train and the reaction of your body.

The experience of travelling by metro is highly fragmented - only the information that can be derived from your fellow passengers can tell of the area one is moving through. When emerging from the metro, you can be in an entirely different world than the one you left behind, merely minutes ago.

I envisioned the metro stations as an integrate system of connections and constructed a wireframe-box with a grid roof, from which the metro stations can hang. They have been extracted from their different places in Paris, and in this space brought together - hanging, juxtaposed, crisscrossing. Between them new spatial connections emerge. Could this be a three dimensional take on the Parisian passages? Facilitating movement between the different levels of the city, like the escalators on the outside of Centre Pompidou.

I wanted to investigate what happen to me, to my body as I travelled through the underground of Paris. The first line is drawn to follow the edge of the paper, the next to follow this and so on. If made perfectly, the paper would be covered with identical straight lines.

This, how ever, is an impossibility, the tensions within my self and the movement, the forces, of the metro car appears as bents and turns to the lines. This encodes information into the simple drawing, when the train has been at a hold or I have switched lines. The drawing transforms the linear movement between the stations to a landscape.

As with the city drawings, the metro-ride drawings have a three dimensional feel to them; they have obtained the quality of a landscape drawing. In further investigating this I have transformed one of the drawings to the realm of the models. The lines have been traced and cut, placed in order to create a landscape, but still the model has no scale. This could be a landscape on a large scale, ready to receive buildings, a landscape suited to float into existing structure, filling the gaps and connecting the urban-tissue. At a medium/small scale it could be the large roof of a multidisciplinary performing architectural statement or a facade-element. It holds within it the ability to absorb architectural statements.


_movement in and blending of an urban-construction

My investigations in Paris came to be much about movement; the movement of the body in relation to different spatial conditions of the city.

Up and down the metro stations; back and forth between the stations; in a diagonal move straight across Paris; between points of intersections laid down by another architect; in and out of the galleries and courtyards. This also talks about the blending of spaces, the blending of the café, gallery and pedestrian space, the street and courtyards, the train of the metro moving through the tunnels of the metro leaving, trough, me an imprint of a landscape in my notebook.

Drawings: Ink on paper 210 x 130 [ mm ]
Drawing, pencil on paper, 297 x 420 [ mm ].
Pictures from inside Galerie Vero Dodat and the entrance to passage de Caire. Pictures from inside Galerie Vero Dodat and the entrance to passage de Caire.
Walk this way, Paris Tracings of my movement onto a Michelin map
Construction diagram. Drawing; Ink on paper, picture photoshopped.
Sectionwalk model. Model; 180 x 1425 x 10 [ mm ], MDF connected with leather strap.
Sectionwalk model. Photoshot of the model in plan and elevation. This unrolling of the model shows how it starts to create recognizable spaces.
Map of Parc de la Villette and of one of the follies, this one I named the wounded
Follies in the city Drawing; pencil on paper, various sizes.
Excerpt of my Paris map, showing the location of the new drawn follies
Gare de Lyon. Drawing; ink on paper 150 x 90 [ mm ]
Map of Metro Stations. Drawing; ink on paper, various sizes. This is a collection, a list, a map, of all of the metro stations I visited while in Paris.
Hanging Stations. Model; oak frame, 600 x 600 x 350 [ mm ] Metro stations in welding wire, various sizes.
Movement_018_Buttes Chaumont to Louis Blanc to Marie d'Ivry Drawing; ink on paper, 210 x 130 [ mm ]
Map of Metro Rides. Drawing; ink on paper 210 x 130 [ mm ]
Untiteld. Model 300 x 180 x 60 [ mm ], birch laminate. The model transfers the collected movement of the metro car into a landscape.
Spaces of Paris Four connected drawings; pencil on paper, 297 x 420 [ mm ]