"The world is not a rectilinear world, it is a curvilinear world. The heavenly bodies go in a curve because that is the
natural way..."

-- George Bernard Shaw

"I am not attracted to straight angles or to the straight line, hard and inflexible, created by man. I am attracted to free-flowing, sensual curves. The curves that I find in the mountains of my country, in the sinuousness of its rivers, in the waves of the ocean, and on the body of the beloved woman. Curves make up the entire Universe, the curved Universe of Einstein."

-- Oscar Niemeyer

Thursday, 10 July 2014

19. The Most Fantastic Doorway in Paris

One thing about the French is that they certainly enjoy their share of the avant-garde. In fact, I'd say Paris was at the leading edge of avant-garde were it not for the fact that avant-garde already means "leading edge". Or something like that.

One building, 29 Avenue Rappe, is even certified avant-garde. Designed by the great Art Nouveau architect Jules Lavirotte and built by an all-star cast of France's best ceramicists, door makers and framers, the apartment was given an award for the best facade in Paris in 1901:

While folks line up for the Eiffel Tower, a five-minute walk away you can have 29 Avenue Rapp all to yourself - just you and this unique showcase of French decorative arts. It may not give you an unparalleled view of Paris, but what you'll see will certainly be unlike anything else in the city of light.

Like the flamboyant doorway that puts the WOW in the WOWchitecture: 

While I stood in front of it, a friendly middle-aged Parisian man sauntered over to make sure I understood the truly masculine nature of the building. It was hard to miss. I had already spotted the testes carved out of the top of the magnificent doors. But my friend also pointed out the phallus descending from them, as well as the lizard-shaped door handle:

Still, the ceramic door-surround had some distinctly feminine touches to it. Like the head of a woman, said to be Lavirotte's wife, at the crest of the arch, adorned with the head and fur of some poor fox. Or the delicate, nude and rather young-looking images of Adam and Eve, a little higher up. And, indeed, the flowerpots decorating most of the windows:

Then again, the stone blocks making up most of the building gave a rugged masculine feel to them, as did the arches and oxen heads that appeared to support the wrought-iron balconies:

Lavirotte was by no means a one-hit wonder, nor were all of his buildings whimsical. His beautiful 3 Avenue Rapp, just down the block, contains many classical Art Nouveau elements: a wonderfully colourful round turret; sinewy, green wrought iron; ceramic figures, coloured bricks; and beautiful balconies. Not to mention a six-storey high tromp l'oeil trellis that appears to be three-dimensional:

Still, if you like your Paris icons to be tall and famous, check out the Lavirotte-designed Parkette, Rapp Square, and look through his black wrought-iron gate:

You'll feel the visit was worth it. As for me, I'll take the little-known gem called 29 Avenue Rapp over that other hyper-extended phallic symbol any day of the week. And while you're at Lavirotte's exuberant building, don't forget to drop into the patisserie across the street. If the buildings haven't yet made you go "WOW", their tarte au citron surely will.