The Paris drawings [Master Thesis E/11] Del 2, AAA

Af Troels Ivan Steenholdt Heiredal

Preface; When contacted by Lise – I am not Lise even though the post states that I am – I agreed to do this, my hope being that this “live-blog-thesis-update” creates a reaction. I will put forward my investigations, my findings, my thoughts, my analysis, my conclusions, my fears and joys, in the hope that some of you would like to discuss or further comment. It’s only through conversation that we move forward. I find it important to go out and do field research in relation to a given project, particularly where a final project is concerned. A study trip provides huge input and adds perspective to your project. I went to Paris to try and dissect the city through drawings, to draw the feeling of parisian space, to draw the further development of Paris, to draw an understanding of a city.

Since returning from Paris, whilst organizing my drawings, I have discovered that a lot of them are lists. Lists of metro stations, lists of metro rides, lists of creatures in Parc de la Villette, lists of additional spaces encompassing the streetscape, lists of new connections. I have stopped to ponder could it be that I was reading George Perec during the trip?

The drawing follows; categorised and presented in a short text. At this moment in the project I don’t have a clear idea about what they represent, other than investigations and observations. This is where the analyse take its beginning. The translation of the Paris experience into the context of my project, makes me a little nervous, this is where it can all go wrong. It can only inform the project if it has something to offer, beauty isn’t a quality. I must not be blind. Translation is very exciting.

Paris;

When contemplating Paris, the images that spring to mind are of vibrant street life. In Paris, life is lived on the streets; it is at the cafés, in the galleries and bars. Paris encompasses a vast number of public gathering points; the very city is built as a public space, constructed for the meeting of people, encouraging interaction.

“Apartment buildings displayed and oriented a collective that communicated fully with the public street […] The space of early nineteenth-century Parisian buildings mingled with the space of streets in concrete, quotidian ways.” (“Seeing through Paris”; Sharon Marcus) The streetscape changes throughout the day with the galleries and cafés. Most of the galleries have an open door policy and the cafés are more often than not, able to open their entire facade, inside and outside merge as the café-space flows into the streetscape.

Drawn as I moved through the streetscape, including additional spaces attaching themselves to the street. 

Besides this, there is a wealth of small inner-courtyards opening towards the street. When exploring these you are in for a surprise, every once in a while they are not courtyards at all, but small passages. Courtyard or passage, here you will find small milieu, sometimes there is a café at sometimes a gallery, a small gap leads to a bright opening arranged around a tree. It is this abundance of spatial experience that enhances the desire, the urge to discover the city.

A small green space in an open courtyard – in the background, an open staircase to the apartments.

“The writers who represented the city to itself thus not only emphasized apartment houses as elements of Parisian landscape but also saw through the apartment house, treating it as a lens or as a point of view and not simply as an opaque visual object. In the process, they imagined apartment houses to be as transparent as they wanted the city to be.” (“Seeing through Paris” Sharon Marcus) I read this not as a longing for a literal transparency, but rather a phenomenal one, as described by Colin Rowe and Robert Slutzky. The quote holds no real value if it is understood as a desire for the literal transparency of the glasshouses. It is in the phenomenal transparency that real understanding lies. Here the threshold between the city, the public and the apartment, the private blurs resulting in the annexation of the apartment into the city.

A cluster of houses – seemingly superimposed.

The flâneur is from Paris. He drifts around in space, experiences the city with his body. “The crowd is the veil through which the familiar city beckons to the flâneur as phantasmagoria – now a landscape, now a room” (Walter Benjamin) The flâneur turns the cityscape into landscape, the interior to exterior, whereby the city becomes an interior landscape at the will of the flâneur. Through the concept of similitude the flâneur holds an ability to superimpose space.

“The discourse of urban observation described the apartment building as a typical and integral physical feature of the Parisian landscape and, strikingly, as a figure for the objects and activity of urban observation itself.” (“Seeing through Paris”, Sharon Marcus) The quote furthers the conception of the apartment being an active, almost public, part of the city and hereby also a territory for the flâneur.

The Map;

While in Paris, the first thing I acquired was a street map. I wanted to investigate my movement whilst there. When visiting a new city, it’s hard to from a comprehensive view of our movement, how much of the city have you really visited? You will often travel on the same roads repeatedly, therefore I decided to trace my movement, by drawing it onto my street map. The map holds a lot of information as to where metros were entered and exited, the section-walk and the continuation of the connecting creatures of Parc de la Villette; these will all be more thoroughly explained in the following.

The section-walk:

After locating the segment of Paris, I prior to travelling there had investigated in model, I drew in the section extending it to the boundaries of ‘la peripherique’. Then I traced the last drawn line in my first eight metro-rides and put them at parallels to the complete sectionline, hereby putting the landscape of travelling through underground Paris back onto the city of Paris, thus providing me with a route through Paris. I walked from the south-east to the north-west corner and whenever the sectionline intersected with a street on the map, I toke a picture, frontal perspective down the street in the direction that I was moving. Given the length of the section-walk, time has been embedded into the pictures, the first being taken at 16.14 and the last at 21.27.

It’s impossible to contemplate the 95 pictures from the section-walk at once, so to create ‘one picture’, I have collected ‘a slice’ of 15 mm from each of them and rejoined them. The first slice is taken from the far left side of the first picture and the last slice from the far right side of the last picture. In between the slice is moved at a constant level from left to right, ending at the far right edge of the last picture, transforming the picture-slices into one long picture. The picture-slices are mounted onto wooden sticks, having a trapezoid plan-section enabling them to bend and coil. When unrolled into a straight line, the structure becomes unstable, and collapses. In order to prevent this collapse, it’s necessary to bend and twist it, creating a fluid moveable figure, with the capability to create spaces within itself. In a freeze-frame of this it’s easy to see the emergence of a building plan or section.

The ‘Parc de la Villette’ drawings;

Parc de la Villette is no ordinary park, this place holds an innumerable number of events. All orchestrated around a 120 meter grid of red follies. These follies are neither buildings nor pavilions. They are creatures all with different personalities; there is the Gatekeeper, the Crane-operator, the Freak, the Judge, the Water-bearer and so on. They are calm points of reference in the chaos tying the park together; facilitating transition between structure and landscape. They allow for the path to run wild, winding through the landscape, building momentum, leaving piles of dirt, as it rounds corners producing events along its route.

I have named them, through the naming process the creatures come to life; they are fitted with a story just like the city and all the stories it holds. Realising this I have extended the grid into the city and continue the little stories at the coming intersection points. Just as the creatures met at intersection points and establish stability in the chaos that is the Parc de la Villette through a manifestation of the connecting grid-lines, I will in the city locate the grid points and draw a very physical spatial connection in these spaces.

I have continued the grid and the spirit of the creatures of Parc de la Villette into the city of Paris. Their sole concern is materialising the intersection, so I have localised the consecutive points on the grid by measuring the distance in steps and the direction on my compass, drawing the section of the place and then attempting to develop an architectural connection between the parts. This resulted in a list of architectural possibilities, a catalogue of concepts of connection. Some have a recognisable architectural form where as others are moving manly on the plan of concepts, and still need work in order to come into a inhabitable form.

The Metro drawings;

On entering the metro system running beneath the streets of Paris, you are connected to all of Paris entirely through this extensive network of tunnels and tracks. A metro system is the easiest way of getting around in large cities, but it comes at the cost of lost orientation. To reach the platform you move through a series of halls and corridors; twists and turns, that render you unable to determine your starting position and/or direction.

Riding the train it becomes even more difficult to determine your direction, you only feel shifts in direction, vertical and horizontal, but you are not able to relate these coherently to the city ar a whole, there being no point of reference. It’s like moving through a hidden landscape, a landscape constructed by the interaction between the movement of the train and the reaction of your body. The experience of travelling by metro is highly fragmented – only the information that can be derived from your fellow passengers can tell of the area one is moving through. When emerging from the metro, you can be in an entirely different world than the one you left behind, merely minutes ago.

I have constructed a wireframe-box with a grid roof, from which the metro stations, bent in welding rod, can hang. They have been extracted from different places in Paris, and in this space brought together – hanging, juxtaposed, crisscrossing. Between them new spatial connections emerge. The cross-joint at the corner of the frame; conveys a celebration of the intersection, like the creatures at Parc de la Villette – this is also present in ‘L8.10; Cross connection’ where it seems to have a structural purpose.

The generation of a subterranean landscape. The first line is drawn to follow the edge of the paper, the next to follow this and so on. If made perfectly, the paper would be covered with identical straight lines. This drawing was made as I travelled from Buttes Chaumont via Louis Blanc to Marie d’Ivry, the movement of the lines depict the forces I experienced. If you look closely you will be able to tell when the train has been at a hold on different stations and when I have switched lines. The drawing transforms the linear movement between the stations to a landscape

This is a metro ride from Buttes Chaumont via Louis Blanc to Marie d’Ivry.

As with the city drawings, the metro-ride drawings have a three dimensional feel to them; they have obtained the quality of a landscape drawing. In further investigating this I have transformed one of the drawings to the realm of the models. The lines have been traced and cut, placed in order to create a landscape, but still the model has no scale. This could be a landscape on a large scale, ready to receive buildings, a landscape suited to float into existing structure, filling the gaps and connecting the urban-tissue. At a medium/small scale it could be the large roof of a multidisciplinary performing architectural statement or a facade-element. It holds within it the ability to absorb architectural statements.

The metro ride from Anvers via Jaurés to Botzaris.

Postscript; I travelled just outside ‘La Periphérique’ to the project “Ivry sur Seine” by Jean Renaudie; a mixed use project on the grand scale. The shopping centre, apartments, schools, span four streets and include squares, towers, terraced housing, cafées, all intertwined on multiple levels.

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10 kommentarer on “The Paris drawings [Master Thesis E/11] Del 2, AAA”

  1. Morten Birk Jørgensen siger:

    Hvor er det bare et virkelig flot materiale du har lavet fra Paris. Dels super flotte(og egentlig meget demokratiske) tegninger du har lavet og derudover en god struktur!

    Jeg er vild med at du læser George Perece i Paris. Jeg har selv læst “Livet – en brugsanvisning”, men manglede virkelig den parisiske gadestemning at forstå den i.

    Jeg studsede over noget af det du skrev om passager. Jeg arbejder selv med passager i København for tiden og jeg gjorde en observation som du måske kunne bruge til noget: Både Skt. Annæ passage, Pistolstræde og Jorcks Passage skilter med sig selv ved indgangene. Det er der ikke ret mange andre gader eller steder der gør. De har altså en selvopfattelsen som en eller anden form for identitetsskabere for et større område. Det er især interessant med Skt. Annæ passage, som ikke har kunderelaterede funktioner. Gad vide om der ligger noget i typologien ‘passage’, som er specielt velegnet til at fungere som identitetsskaber?

    • En af de overvejende grunde til at jeg tog til Paris, var jeg gerne ville ned og undersøge gaderne og særligt de Parisianske passager, beskrevet af Walter Benjamin. Jeg har også et par tegninger og billeder herfra men har valgt ikke at inkludere dem.

      Da jeg kom til den første blev jeg slemt skuffet! Det var en komplet lukket gade – i den forstand at de to parallelle glas facader var helt lukket til – med butikker man ikke anede om havde åben eller ej om de solgte noget eller blot var produktion. Der var intet liv. Det var kolde steder at befinde sig. Passagerne var hovedsageligt i to etager, men den øvre var helt afskåret fra den nedre, man følte ingen forbindelse mellem de to.

      Men de har, lige netop som du siger, en form for selvopfattelse, de har vel altid indtaget en særlig rolle i gadebilledet, er deres egen typologi, og the birthplace of the fläneur. I Paris har de også navneskilte, men dette ændre ikke ved faktum at man ofte kan overse dem, hvis man ikke er opmærksom. Deres indgang er ikke så prægende som nabo butikkerne.

      Kisho Kurokawa, far the metabolism movement, var vel også en af de first till at formulere vigtigheden i disse urban corridors: “I argued that roji – urban corridors – are superior to plazas and that the city of the future must be a city of narrow passageways, not open squares” (Interview i “Project Japan. Metabolism Talks…” af Rem Koolhaas og Hans Ulrich Obrist)

      Det som jeg så som en spændende mulighed var at sammensætte den oprindelige passage idé med det tre dimensionelle rumforløb fra metro stationerne og så kombinere dette med en fremtidig udvikling af vores byer. [jf. når at tage rulletrapperne i Centre pompidou er det faktisk en oplevelse]

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