Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Art Nouveau in the Streets of Paris

The Colebrooke Row love affair with Paris began years ago but with the opening of our new venture Bar Le Coq, this week we’ve fallen in love all over again. Paris has a vibrant and exciting bar scene and Le Coq has arrived to celebrate the 1970s and the synergy between traditional French glamour and the raw energy of the New York underground music scene. Originally the site of a Parisian wine bar, Le Coq graces a small backstreet in the 10th Arrondissement.  Despite an incredibly busy month we’ve had the opportunity to stroll along the autumn streets and in doing so we couldn’t help but spend some time admiring the beautiful Art Nouveau architecture and delving into its rich and fascinating history.

Paris has always been a key-player in all European artistic movements. In the latter part of the nineteenth century it played home to core developments in the formation of Art Nouveau, many of which found themselves immortalised upon the streets of Paris. From the mid-1890s, the works of emerging young designers were exhibited at the gallery L'Art Nouveau and the city hosted the World's Fair of 1900 which helped to propel Art Nouveau into the limelight. 

The most infamous of Parisian Art Nouveau architects is Hector Guimard (1867- 1942) - indeed, the Art nouveau style is often referred to as the Style Guimard in France. Guimard attended the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Arts Decoratifs in Paris from 1882 to 1885. Here Guimard became acquainted with the theories of Eugene Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc whose rationalist ideas formed the inspiration for many of his ensuing architectural endeavours. Guimard's first project was to design the interior of the "Au Grand Neptune" restaurant in Paris and on the success of this followed numerous commissions for private dwellings in Paris.

Castel Bérange
Perhaps Guimard's Parisian masterpiece is Castel Béranger, which presides on the rue La Fontaine, but his best-known works - despite some initial scandel - are most likely to be the entrances to the Paris Métro, some of which were completed just in time for the 1900 World Exposition. Based on the ornamented structures of Viollet-le-Duc, Guimard utilised an organic and tense linear style and combined it with cast iron for both structural and decorative purposes. By 1903 Hector Guimard had designed numerous Métro entrances in the Art nouveau style, featuring wrought iron, bronze and glass. The results became instantly iconic. These arches are testamount to the progressive curiosity of Guimard and their construction serve as a precursor to industrial standardisation. In this way, although Art Nouveau often calls upon nature as a muse, it is really an urban style, designed to grace the streets and interiors of modern industrial cities

Guimard's Metro Entrance

When we travelled to the 7th arrondissement we found it to be home of many masterpieces of the Art Nouveau architectural design. It is here that you can find many of Jules Lavirotte’s incredible Art Nouveau masterpieces. Jules Lavirotte (1864-1928) was one of France’s most brilliant and fearless Art Nouveau architects and designers. A contemporary of Hector Guimard, Lavirotte is known for his freeform and audacious designs. Although he worked very little in Paris, there are several examples of his legacy which still stand proudly. The Countess de Montessuy, who lived on rue St-Dominique, was the first patron to enable Lavirotte to work in Paris. On rue Sedillot, close to his patron's dwelling, is a fantastic example of Lavirotte's earliest and Baroque-influenced designs. In the roof and windows, Lavirotte uses designs most commonly seen in Baroque French castles and he cleverly combines these with Art Nouveau iron-worked balconies. Now an Italian school, this building has an impressive and imposing tower over the main entrance.  

Rue Sedillot

Lavirotte's presidence in the 7th arrondissement continues with his building on the Square Rapp. A lack of symmetry in the facade and elaborate balconies, each one different from the rest, ensures that this building really stands out from all others. A short walk away at 29 Avenue Rapp is Lavirotte’s most outlandish building. Designed in 1901 for his friend Alexandre Bigot, the building has a wildly decorated facade and as ceramist himself, Bigot worked in collaboration with his friend to execute the lavish and ornate design. Lavirotte's gift for exuberant forms is clearly visible in this facade, whose bravura set piece is the doorway. 

Avenue Rapp
Square Rapp

Maison des Arums

Unassumingly tucked into a quiet little street near the Champ de Mars park is one of the finest Art Nouveau buildings in Paris. Designed by Octave Raquin in 1904, this building earned the nickname “maison des arums,” or the house of the lilies, because of its lavish floral and vegetate designs and decorations. Here at Colebrooke Row we can't wait to spend more time in Paris as Bar Le Coq approaches the busy Christmas season. No doubt we'll fall victim to a fresh new wave of love as we walk the streets of Paris in the snow...

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