Site visit

January in Paris, anyone?

25 intrepid studenti have joined my colleague Lee Cagley and me for a frigid week of studio research and general architectural tourism. We’ve adapted our now-standard hotel program for interior design, architecture, and landscape architecture students to a site just south of the Eiffel Tower, on Quai Branly, where the views are as inspirational as the logistics will be tricky. The site now is a sports center, with a low brutalist building on the south end and an athletics field to the north–but the surrounding neighborhood has grown into a mix of hotel and office buildings that suggest other uses. (Yes, that’s Seidler’s Australian Embassy to the right, complete with fan pier “by” Pier Luigi Nervi…)

During our site visit today, the wallpaper in a neighboring cafe gave an interesting hint to the parcel’s past–in the 19th century it served as the freight yard for the 1878 and 1889 exhibitions–so every piece of wrought iron that went into the Tower was offloaded there. Later, the yard was developed into a full rail station, the Gare du Champ de Mars, which still exists in truncated form as the RER station that you can see sliding under the roadway.

It’s been a cold, snowy week here, which made for an espresso-laden site reconnaissance this morning. Without which we might not have been up on to the site’s history quite so soon. Whether that turns into any architectural or site ideas or not, it’s an interesting piece of logistics history. How do you ship a 900-foot tall tower into central Paris?

Tourism the rest of the week. Versailles tomorrow, which should be interesting to see in the company of both architects and interior designers, and a planned Corbusier death march and Chartres pilgrimage scheduled for the weekend…

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