Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Arcades Project

A "mixture of the Villa Medici and a Berlin squat," runs the description in Libé. The chimerical object in question is the new artists' residence and exhibition space at 104, rue Aubervilliers. To judge from the picture, it looks like a sort of po-mo homage to Walter Benjamin's "Arcades Project." How about one of you Parisian readers hopping over there and writing an architectural review? It's been a while since I've had a guest post. Let me know what you think.


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5 comments:

Leo said...

Will go tomorrow and report.

Arthur Goldhammer said...

Thanks!

Alain Q. said...

I haven't seen it yet, but I wonder if this is the right place to feel the good artistic vibes...

The building used to be an animal slaughter house, later replaced by the one in La Villette. Instead, they turned it into the main establishment for Les Pompes Funêbres Générales !

Too many ghosts...

Polly-Vous Francais said...

Le CentQuatre has been getting hyped a lot -- in the metro, etc.

You can see a video of it (and lots more) at http://paris.fr

I look forward to the review!

Leo said...

As promised, here's a quick report.

First, it's still work in progress. On day one of public opening, just one workshop in public use, but unfortunately, the artist had not arrived yet...

The place won't be humming until next Spring.

A memento of past "laicité" wars, it was built in the 1870's (on the site of a former slaughterhouse) as the warehouse for the Paris Catholic diocese funeral organization. Was seized by the City in 1905 after the separation of Church and State "to provide decent funerals for citizens irrespective of their creeds and financial means". It was not a funeral parlor, but a big industrial facility where hearses and horses were parked and caskets were manufactured and stored. Ofically, the City lost its funeral monoploy in the late 80's (of course, as often in France, the monopoly had effectively disappeared a long time before).

It is located near railroad lines which were useful to carry the timber used in the casket making process. Located in the 19th arrondissement, it is surrounded by housing projects and is close to an area that recently made the headlines after the Paris prosecutor declared an war against local gang warfare. Clearly, not your typical bourgeois area, we will be thrilled "de nous encanailler" when we visit the shows and attend artist performances.

The architecture is plain vanilla end of 19th century industrial of no special character. I have seen several similar projects in various European capitals (Brussels, Rome, Vienna...). However, the money spent (> € 100 Mio) shows, with quality fixtures and material.

You can see a few pictures on
http://picasaweb.google.fr/schonbach/LeCentquatre#