notes from an urban hibernation

Paris : Simon Cutts & Erica Van Horn

Beyond Porte Dauphine


We went off early on Sunday morning under bright blue sky to Poissy to finally visit Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye.  Rain and cold and this and that had caused us to postpone the visit again and again.  We took the bus from the RER station along with six Japanese women and one Japanese man.  We all got off at the Villa entrance and managed to have a quiet half hour in the house before several large groups with tour guides arrived.  The silence and the sunshine before the noisy crowds arrived was ideal.  Of course I cannot really speak for the Japanese, but I like to think that we all felt ever so lucky to experience the movement between spaces and between indoors and outdoors so intimately and so quietly. The building in its generous green space and surrounded by trees and bushes created a special kind of privacy in an otherwise dull suburb.

We walked down the hill back to the train station. There was no need for the bus as it was not far. I saw a small building over a cement wall.  After seeing the Villa up on its legs and the tiny gardeners cottage up on identical but fewer legs, this little raised cabin caught my eye.  My first thought was that it was a signal cabin overlooking a railway line.  But there was no railway.  Instead there was a pair of huge grey gates and a high grey wall and inside the wall there was a big grey building  just visible and set well back from the wall.  It looked like a prison but there was no sign announcing what was within the walls.  How would someone coming to visit an incarcerated loved one know that they had arrived?  I feel certain that the little building high up on the wall was a guard’s watchtower.

On returning to the city we went to the Porte Dauphne and began Porte Walk No. 20.  With big wide pavements and hardly anyone out and about, we strode down the Avenue Friedland and then Avenue Haussman at what seemed a fine speed. At one moment the Avenue Friedland crossed the Rue de Faubourg St. Honoré at exactly the point where we had been the Sunday before as we walked in from Porte Maillot (No.18).  Both of these walks through wealthy neighbourhoods provided fewer reasons to linger than some of the porte walks.  I was interested in the copper plates in a well-appointed printer’s  shop. The copper plates were attached to three little poles with bull-dog clips and they were etched with the names of banks and financial institutions.  The envelopes and letter heads on display were all on thick paper and each one represented one of these grand institutions. I doubt these copper plates had been used very recently for printing.  No one uses copper much these days but even so, I wonder if anyone would have been interested to look at printing plates in such a neighbourhood. EVH


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This entry was posted on February 20, 2014 by .
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