But really, it’s work. Studio field trip, after two years of barrelling around Panama City in minivans, armed military police and lack of traffic signs be damned, my Interior Design colleague Lee Cagley and I have re-set our hotel studio in a city slightly more conducive to mass transit, walking, and with some serious climate issues. We’re at the annual Maison Object show today with an advance crew, ogling Italian stone, German cutlery, and all manner of furniture, with site visits and a few side trips planned for the week. I’ve been scouting, by which I mean hitting old favorites to make sure I remember how to get around. St. Denis, where a market-driven expansion of a pilgrimage in the 12th century almost single-handedly launched the Gothic style, has become a regular visit—that’s the 13th (corrected, h/t to R.S.D. for pointing this out) century Rayonnant upgrade to the choir, above, which sits on the original arcade, below:
In one shot, you get 300 years of development. In addition to dozens of French kings, lying in state, and in the aisles.
And, just to make the point, on the way out I hit one of the many proto-gothic churches in the city. St.-Pierre-du-Montmartre’s walls were built at about the same time as the St. Denis choir (the clean vaults, like the upper stories of St. Denis, came later), but it’s essentially a Romanesque structure, just with pointed arches that were a new import, via the Normans, from the Arab world. You can tell that they were struggling to figure out what they had—nothing quite hangs together, and the original vaulting wasn’t supported by any buttressing outside, meaning it was quickly demolished and replaced with a timber roof—only with a couple centuries of know-how did its builders try to vault the space again.
Good warmups. After the site visit I’m hoping to drag some intrepid design students to Chartres, and on a Saturday Corbusier death march. Five day metro cards to the ready…