Monday, 27 June 2011

Sun kissed blanc cassé

I have a soft spot for the colour blanc cassé, white with the hard crisp edges broken away. The blanc cassé colour of Parisian stone in winter, becomes a rich golden cream when the sun comes out. I've been trying to think how to describe the colour, it is not unlike the colour of nougat. Here is a block of nougat.
And here is some Parisian stone, in the sun.
Once I started looking I was able to gather quite a collection of blanc cassé with un touche de soleil (a touch of sun). Here is the Louvre in the sun.
Boulevard Magenta, reflected in the windows of the covered marché Saint Quentin.
Parisian trees can also radiate this gentle delicate colour.
This tree is in parc Monceau.
A Parisian gutter.
Some tarnished silver at the brocante market on Place des Abbesses.
Here is a beautiful shadow and golden wall in the park behind the Sacré Cœur.
A fountain in the same garden.
A bubble infront of our house.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Crossing continents to India: a trip down memory lane

In 1990 I spent nine months working and travelling in India. I went with a friend (Ms J) and we worked for the Peoples Participation Organisation (PPP), on a squatter settlement re-housing project in the suburbs of Mumbai. Work was based in Mumbai but we were able to go on quite a few jaunts to the north and south of the country. It was an amazing nine months. One of those years where you fit three into one, where you do so much emotional growing-up you come home a different person. 

On one of our trips we went to Ahmedabad, the largest city in Gujarat, with a population of about 4 million. It's busy. Insanely busy!

If you're interested in architecture, there is a lot to see here. Buildings by Le Corbusier, Doshi, Charles Correa, Louis Kahn, all famous architects who have made their mark in the world of architecture.

We went to visit the Mill Owners' Association building designed by Le Corbusier and built in 1954. I kept a diary during this time. Below is an extract, describing our visit to this architectural landmark.

Mill Owners' Assocation Building - Le Corbusier, Ahmedabad, Sunday 1 July 1990

We push open the rusty gate, nobody is in sight. The garden in front of the Mill Owners building is parched and brown, small sporadic clumps of green are the only evidence of the pre-monsoon showers. The rough concrete is weathered. A brown dusty film covers the grey stone. We walk up the ramp into the building, a thick concrete rail to our left, a metal one to our right, supported on metal posts. Plant boxes with withered greenery stand beneath. In the entrance a solitary wooden chair with a woven seat stands on the stone floor, the cane has fatigued, it is torn and frayed. 
To our left are diagonal concrete fins, they cast sharp shadows onto the facade, between the fins a few plants have crumpled onto the red/brown soil. Behind this concrete screen is a huge concrete drum, vertical stripes of wooden grain textured concrete enhance the curve.
Through the double height spaces and up a free standing concrete stair with no hand rail, a circular half landing canter-levered into space, another straight flight of stairs projected from a wall, again no hand rail. 

On the rear facade horizontal and vertical concrete fins form a three dimensional grid. There is a flurry of wings. On the top horizontal fin is a line of pigeons, one glides across the void, dust flies as it leaves its perch. Below the floor is splattered with a continuous band of white and green. High up on the ceiling are enormous wasp nests, a rich deep golden brown. They hang like giant fungi from the ceiling. 

On the ground floor three men talk, one sits on a wooden bed, rope tied across the middle in a mesh forms the mattress. Another man is squatting on the floor, another is perched on a concrete projection. Children play in the pool in the courtyard.
Two black shining bicycles are parked next to one another, a pair of shoes are clamped in the rattrap of one. On the wall are diagrams of statistics of progress in the textile business over the last ten years. Coloured charts show little has changed. 

In the back garden the fountains are dry. Beyond the end wall is the Sabarmati river. Over a hundred meters wide it is brown and barren, a few rivulets of inky blue water lie stagnant. A woman in the distance walks behind seven white donkeys laden with heavily loaded hessian saddle bags. Children throw rocks into the dark water and run, laughing from the splashes. On the far side many corrugated iron roofs are held down by slates, bricks and palm leaves, over a clutter of crowded hovels. Back in the Mill Owners building two women wearing pink and green Gugerati saris with a transparent cotton scarf wrapped around their bodies and over their heads. They squat in the shade of some shrubs and talk. 

The heat engulfs us, everything is so still and quiet, the hum of flies, the squeaking of a chip monk, our senses feel numbed in this surreal vacuum.

Saturday, 18 June 2011


Today was the end of year summer fête for Mom'artre, a hugely popular, artsy, after school club that our kids go to once a week. The road alongside the Cimetière de Montmartre was closed for the occasion and the work done by all the kids was displayed. Amazingly, the rain (mostly) kept off and everybody had fun.

There were balloons.
Gorgeous mosaics.
I was particularly partial to this banana.
More balloons.
Our kids were in the smiley group. Bonjour!
The kids had fun sticking smileys on people's backs.
And incase you didn't know, smileys move fast.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Artful Faces

Anybody who has walked round Paris will know there are a huge number of underground street artists. Elaborate works of art pop up and disappear on a daily basis. Recently I've been noticing that there seem to be more Ville de Paris men dressed in green, painting over graffiti on the walls around the city. I did a quick Internet search and they do seem to have a lutte contre les graffiti campaign. This man is painting over some tags. Some of the walls around here have so many coats of paint on them you fear the whole lot will peel off in a giant crusty flake.
As I went through my photos I realised I had a quite a collection of street art photos, too many to put in one post. I've tried to organise them into groups. The first collection I've put together is 'artful faces.' 

There are of course Gregos Faces which can be found all over Paris. I liked this one, on rue Durantin, which had been tampered with, rather appropriately, by a passerby.
More recently I've noticed some of his faces where the painting extends onto the wall.
Sometimes two artists have their work side by side.

I barely noticed this one discreetly stenciled onto a rue Cortot up behind the Sacré Cœur.
This one is simple but effective.
And this one? Well this poor man lost his head...
...and then fell in love.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Marvelous Monceau

Parc Monceau is a beautiful park in the 8th arrondissement. Designed in the informal 'English-style', the park was established in 1769 by the Duke of Chartre. The Duke bought parcels of land and employed Louis Carrogis Carmontelle, an architect, painter, dramatist, author (Jack of all trades!) to design the gardens. At that time the gardens were called la folie de Chartres. In 1793 the Duke was executed and the park came into public ownership. In 1860 it became the property of the 'Ville de Paris'. 

On a sunny day the park is always heaving with people, young and old. It is a popular place to hold birthday parties for young children. Our son went to a party there the other day. After dropping him off I took a stroll round the park and took some photos. The party was held by the duck pond. Not a bad venue!

I love the soft creamy stone of the columns.

There are many statues dotted round the park.

And plenty of activities for children, including a rather extravagantly detailed manège.

I was very taken with this submarine.

There are old fashioned double swings.

Poney rides.

Amazing trees.

Good for climbing.




And great cake!