Paris Map Neighborhoods – Neighborhood Maps of Paris, France


Marcel Breuer and Bernard Zehrfuss, 1955-60

This is about the best modern building in central Paris – not that there is much competition. The concave front tries to fabricate an eighteenth-century effect with twentieth-century details, and pays the price for it. But the back is much better – another big concave front, a separate smaller block on the corner and a Japanese garden by Noguchi in between. It has a large-scale, slightly untidy humanity that already seems dated in the wound-up world of the 1960s. The structural frame is big enough to let you breathe and can take a bit of mess – the dark glass panels which were hung as an afterthought on those parts exposed to the western sun convert the design from an exercise to something habitable. But the real trouble at Unesco is that it is a monument to something which doesn’t yet exist: a quality reflected both in the colossal emission of postage-stamps in the foyer and the synthetic masterpieces of international art in the rest of the building. Unesco would have done better to stay in huts until it grew to be a reality with its own unique shape: and not only for spiritual reasons; the schedule of accommodation has proved to be out of date, and serious architectural spaces are now given a hilarious twist by having temporary buildings rammed into them

Paris Map Neighborhoods – Neighborhood Maps of Paris, France Photo Gallery

(Facing the Place de Fontenoy, at the back of the Ecole Militaire.)

Paris Arrondissements Map and Guide Pont Bir-Hakeim, from north to south

This is one of the most bewildering and memorable townscape sequences in Paris, and I would trade in the Champs-Elysees for it any day. It begins on the north side of the river, in the staid surroundings west of the Palais de Chaillot where the rue Franklin meets the rue de Passy. South from this junction, the rue de l’Alboni is signed ‘impasse’. And so it is, for motors; it stops above a view of railway lines which are actually part of the Metro (Montparnasse-Etoile). These run along the top of the Pont Bir-Hakeim – like the Newcastle High Level bridge – with road traffic below and the circulation along the quais below that: a topsy-turvy world. Into this tangle, the pedestrian’s way is quite clear; down past the Metro, down grand steps to the lower road, up grand steps, etc., then a languid stroll across the Seine under the tracks whilst the traffic moves, or more likely blocks, on either side. The pedestrian is king all the time, even when he is dodging across traffic; and for a bonne bouche he can see, on the south side, the suburban lines from the Gare d’Orsay seeing the light for the first time far below everything else. If this most friendly of elevated railways above you is the underground, then what the hell is that down there?

Parisian Neighborhoods: Maps and Tips Pont Bir-Hakeim

This bouillabaisse of transport facilities leads into the boulevard de Grenelle, which has the Metro line running up it at second-floor level. This pattern, which could so easily be brutal, has been transformed into an outdoor room, often used as a fairground: lottery wheels, dodgem cars of a ferocious kind, innumerable shooting galleries that seem to be an urban reflection of the formidable pressure that sends Frenchmen out into the country in such numbers to knock off small birds. Best around the Metro station at la Motte-Piquet; when I was there, there were two fortune-telling wax figures called Jurhmah and Yanita. Their heads and eyes were articulated, but they didn’t move to the same rhythm and some of the dissimilar phases were unnerving. Yanita was a jolly, flirty little thing; Jurhmah was truly demonic and I was quite pleased to see him inside a glass box.


Place Denfert-Rochereau

London’s equivalent of this, in character and site, is Camberwell Green. The difference between them is what makes Paris special, perhaps in the whole world – not that Camberwell Green is particularly dreary, but that the everyday parts of Paris can be electric. Je ne sais quoi, or the ordinary become extraordinary. Like many other Parisian places, there is almost nothing to look at in the usual sense: the space is dissipated down a number of avenues unusual even for Paris (eight altogether). But human beings and a wonderful collection of random objects make it go. Item: one replica Lion de Belfort, one Metro, one station on the mysterious Ligne de Sceaux, a short stretch of the ligne itself uncovered just below the surface, several stalls, one impeccably legal gambling station, one Wallace fountain, onepissoir and one w.c., two Ledoux pavilions. Nearby, if you want either, are the Observatory and the Sante prison, and underneath are the Catacombs. The pavilions are left over from the amazing set that Ledoux designed as customs barriers just before the Revolution. He was never quite predictable, and you should see what happens to the banded rustication on the ground floor. But come for the atmosphere of the place, not for Ledoux, and then the moving contrast of this crafty classical shake-up only a couple of inches away from the Art Nouveau Metro entrance will delight all the more.

Flats, rue Croulebarbe

Albert Sarf, c. 1960

In personality, head and shoulders above the average of new flats in Paris. In London or Zurich I would not be so sure. There are two blocks, one small, one of twenty-two storeys, opposite Perret’s politely spoken and prissy Mobilier National. The memorable thing about them is their refusal to take up an artificial dress: the quality which produced the be-thyself outlines of the Citroen cars. Like them, the result satisfies without necessarily giving pleasure. Projecting floors and columns, with the wall panels – aluminium – recessed behind them; the ends are complicated by an apparently random pattern of steel ties, each one a diagonal Saint Andrew’s cross. Tough, but not megalomaniac like most new blocks of flats in France; and not possessive, as an aesthetically better building by Le Corbusier might be.

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