Sometime during my architectural education, certain buildings in and around Paris have been ingrained into my architectural knowledge as being the quintessential precursors to today’s architecture. These monuments are a hotbed of tourist attraction, and so I joined the swarm to see these much praised works once and for all.
Palace of Versailles (Château de Versailles)
This palace, built by Louis XIV to be the political center of France, is giant and quite a trek from central Paris (…thanks Louis). The hall of mirrors is the most popular part of the palace, and the part I was most excited to see. I was expecting to be astonished by the reflections of mirrors and twinkles of gold, but after all the sensationalism, I was simply content walking through space. With the sides roped off and visitors shuffling through, there was a subdued atmosphere. To get the effect of splendour Louis was going for, I feel like a grand ball needs to be held, with dancing and an energetic atmosphere. (Maybe they should hold a Zumba class?)
It was really the Gardens of Versailles that impressed me. These gardens continued as far as the eye could see, with paths leading off to different areas . The perfectly symmetrical and manicured gardens, the ornate fountains and the green grass in the middle of January – beautiful!
This neoclassical style building felt like a textbook example of architectural terms, including Corinthian columns, vaulted ceilings and clerestories. It was interesting to see all these aspects discussed in introductory architecture classes in the flesh, but something that I was never aware of is that the Panthéon is in fact a mausoleum. Beneath the ground floor, down a spiraling staircase, are the burials of many historical French figures. It is eerily dark, damp and chilly even on a warm day.
The well known glass pyramid, designed by I.M.Pei, acts as such a neat entrance to this art museum. Entering this completely transparent space and descending down into the large lobby is such great way to start the tour. Inside the museum was beautiful too. It felt as though not just the artworks were on display but so was the historical building.
And last but not least, the greatest tourist attraction of all of Paris. The iconic landmark of Paris, more a feat of structural ingenuity than architecture, was shockingly giant. I don’t know what I was expecting, but walking around the thick legs of the structure I was impressed by the shear magnitude. Clearly, all the images I’ve seen in the past haven’t done it justice and you must see it to believe it.