On my way back from a conference in Deauville, last Monday I spent a few hours in Paris to go see the Cité de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine, a new museum of architecture and heritage housed in a wing of the Palais de Chaillot, just across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower.
Among the museum's many sections -- which include galleries devoted to frescoes and to modern architecture, as well as a rebuilt unit from Le Corbusier's Cité Radieuse -- I was particularly struck by the "Galerie des Moulages", a collection of life-size and scale copies of fragments of French architectural masterpieces form the 12th to the 18th centuries. The "moulages" (casts) have been realized in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, originally for the benefit of students who could then analyse them without travelling. These include monumental church portals as well as column details, sculptures as well as gargoyles, roomfuls of them:
What's the interest in looking at copies? Fair question. First, since the casts were made, many of the originals have been destroyed or damaged. Second, when was the last time that you could look up-close at the grins of a cathedral gargoyle or at the intricate populations of angels and demons, of humans and mythical creatures that ornate church portals, for example? (And if the cast is not enough, you can even turn to a computer screen and zoom in on high-res pictures.)
On the way to the Palais de Chaillot, just off the Champs-Elysées, we bumped into this building:
No, it's not a building hit by global warming. It's a construction site: an international group is renovating its headquarters. Instead of covering it with gigantic advertising billboards, the owners have asked an artist to "design" the tarpaulin. Surprising, funny, and it doesn't deface the neighborhood.