Friday, May 27, 2011

French Architecture: Gothic and Modernist

Today was our introduction to the architecture which resides in Paris. As a result, we visited the Trocadero architectural museum which was conveniently built with a prime view of the Eiffel Tower. This museum showcases the two architectural styles which are believed to be inherently French; Gothic and Modernist. Not much emphasis was placed upon the Romanesque, Baroque or Rococo styles.

The first thing one notices when walking into the museum is the immense size of the 1:1 reproductions of cathedral entryways, spires and figures. One cannot comprehend the vast scale and the quality of the elaborate carvings. These doorways are easily between thirty and forty feet tall. Because of large size they help to control the viewers pace throughout the museum. These doorways are also supplemented by three dark sections with a lower, solid ceiling.

Gothic sections of the museum are lit from above by massive skylights. This light is very soft, uniform and creates a beautiful glow on the deep red walls. This contrasts the cream colored reproductions, which are painted to look like sandstone. The color shifts as one moves into the rooms containing more modern architectural styles. In the small section devoted to Baroque designs the walls are a strange greenish cream color. This color does not contrast the facades like the red walls of the other room. It seems that the curators wanted to distract the viewer from these designs. This section also has large windows looking out upon the Eiffel Tower. Due to the buildings curved shape this monument is visible out every window. A reminder of what France has accomplished.

The Modernist section also changes somewhat. It is almost as large as the Gothic section, yet its presentation is completely different. Instead of colored walls they were a simple white. The grand facades of the Gothic had disappeared. Replaced by low tables filled with scale models. One section was dedicated to books filled with the history of architecture. Modernist buildings started with the creation of iron. The designers wanted to create buildings which were brighter, larger and had more open space. Iron and later steel enabled buildings designs to flourish, no longer was the architect tied down to the vast amount of stone needed to construct a building.

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