Friday, 24 June 2016

Grand Train, a good idea on the wrong track

Running throughout the summer until October, Grand Train is a large-scale installation is a disused SNCF facility in the north of Paris. If the scale of the site and the activities on offer are impressive, the diversity of the visitors is a little less wide.

Open for 12 hours a day from Wednesday to Sunday, Grand Train mixes outdoor zones on disused rail tracks, fast food and a kind of impromptu railway museum. In a city lacking space it offers a generous pocket of air, even if the weather has not been particularly kind since it opened at the end of April.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

The sporting star who fell to earth

The Cimetière Sud de Saint-Mandé is notable for several oddities. Firstly, although it takes the name of a Paris suburb and is still managed by that town, it is today situated within Paris. Second curiosity, the barrier that separates the cemetery from Saint Mandé is the thunderous périphérique motorway, making it undoubtedly the noisiest graveyard in Paris.
 

It is also possibly the city’s least interesting cemetery, short of charm and celebrities (a sign at the entrance highlights a handful of ex-mayors and the wife of the founder of the Grevin waxworks museum). In one corner though, framed by a solid block of thriving horse chestnut trees, stands perhaps the cemetery’s single striking monument – the half-naked statue of a strong and healthy looking young man.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

The allée Guy Debord: real or imaginary?

On the very edge of Paris where the city segues into Aubervilliers, Google Maps tells us that there is an allée Guy Debord. In the location itself – a recent footpath running between an isolated shopping mall and an arm of the canal Saint Denis – nothing is written and no buildings use the address. If a name exists only on a map, does it really exist at all? It’s a situation that the theorist, writer, filmmaker might well have appreciated.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

A new dress for the belly of Paris

"Since the beginning of the century only one original building has been erected, only one that is not a copy from somewhere else but has sprung naturally out of the soil of our times, and that is Les Halles." For Claude Lantier, Emile Zola's bohemian painter in 'Le Ventre de Paris' the iron and glass constructions - "as light as crystal" and the vibrant market life they sheltered were the antithesis to the new dull, bourgeois - and derivative - Second Empire city.

The new buildings designed by Victor Baltard were "a series of palaces", regal constructions built in the honour of the true French sovereign - food. The 'pavillons' also reinforced the reputation of the area - Les Halles - as one of the world's largest and most prestigious markets, a reputation it had first built under Philippe Auguste in the 12th century.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Fairground Attraction, unplugged

This blog has been a little abandoned over recent months, but like this funfair, the lights will soon be plugged back in and the big wheel turning again. Over 2015, production on the blog had to take a backseat to the book, but for that project the conclusion is now in sight.

The book has been written and delivered, and is now in the editing stage. Photos and illustrations are being selected and there may even be a definite publication date soon. I hope to be able to give more details shortly! It has been intense and demanding, but also an extremely rewarding and instructive experience.

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