Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Corner Pocket

The top-floor, corner window is what I look out of when I'm in my bathroom, mostly when I'm hanging laundry or spying. If there was a second floor balcony, this would be a thoroughly typical Haussmann style building. Maybe because it sits along Rue D'Avron, a significant eastern entry and exit of the city, they held off on the low-floor balcony. As ridiculous as it feels to write the following phrase, here are a couple quotes about the Haussmann style from Wikipedia,

"Neighbouring buildings had to have their floors at the same height, and the façades' main lines had to be the same. The use of quarry stone was mandatory along these avenues. Paris started to acquire the features of an immense palace."

Also from Wikipedia, these are the basic guidelines for the Haussmann facade, floor by floor,

"-ground floor and basement with thick, usually street-lateral, load-bearing walls;
-second, "noble" floor with one or two balconies;
-third and fourth floors in the same style but with less elaborate stonework around the windows;
-fifth floor with a single, continuous, undecorated balcony
-eaves angled at 45º."

There is a lot to criticize about the Haussmann renovations (disrupting the social order, bowing to the wealthy landowners, etc.), but he and Napoleon III (an elected emperor) managed to disinfect, beautify, and rebuild an entire capital city! I try to imagine the mindset with which one sets out on such a project, and it seems like a combination of insanity, megalomania, social responsibility, trepidation, and fearlessness (both of pissing people off, and of biting off more than you can chew).

(Photo by Molly Tuttle.)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Looking Through

Sneak peak of the Glass Slipper.

Good Shape

This is a desk I made for Odile, my neighbor in Paris. She wanted something "efficace, fonctionnel, et jolie": efficient, functional, and pretty. It also had to accommodate the fact that she is left handed. Because she is the director of restoration at the Louvre, I put a lot of time and attention into sanding and varnishing the single piece of wood. It is 44mm plywood with Okoumé veneer on top, just one big shape to fit in the alcove between an old marble fireplace and the slanted wall of a top-floor apartment.

Our apartment building is a classic Haussmann from 1907 (the architect's name and the date of construction are engraved on the outside): not very old at all by European standards, but from a very crazy time in the city's history. Napolean III had the whole city of Paris renovated between 1852 and 1870, with construction continuing into the early 20th century. The Seine prefect, Georges-Eugene Haussmann presided over everything from architectural style, to urban planning, to shuffling the city's map to create large, efficient (then) boulevards. The palacial air of the city, the cafe culture at big intersections, and neighborhood feeling in each of the city's 20 arrondissments are largely due to the Haussmann renovations. It was fun to anchor one of my own pieces in a building with that kind of history.

7 coats of water-based polyurethane varnish, with much sanding in between coats. It's not my ideal finish, for eco minded reasons. Aside from that, it is resilient, pretty, and workable.

Odile is happy with her desk from all I can tell. In related news, she is Jacques Dutronc's cousin and visits him and Francoise often.