We get a study/ research week in January from CIT/CCAD and I spent mine in Paris researching a residency I was applying for. Nobody believed me- but I actually was researching! I spent most of my time at Cité de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine, which is a museum of architecture in a stunning crescent shaped building in Trocadero, orientated so that the exhibition spaces have views of the Eiffel tower.
Eiffel Tower, the view from every window.
There is a postcard I saw years ago that has an image of a 1950’s housewife in a new kitchen with the caption “I’m so excited I could puke”. Its very unprofessional on a professional blog page to include such a thought, but that phrase kept going through my head. I could not keep the smile from my face.
On the ground floor they have various size models of many famous French buildings, churches mostly, where you are shown the details of their construction, a section of Notre Dame ceiling turned on its roof, details and angles that you would never be able to see in the real building. You can look straight through a window that in reality would be hundreds of feet off the ground.
Ceiling, Notre Dame, Paris
The museum has many skeletal constructions showing how a building is supported. Beautiful objects in an institution whose mission is to share the parts of the buildings that the public do not need to see, to bring the public to an understanding of how buildings are made.
Model of a concert hall room
The model is displayed alongside the drawings.
I kept imagining what these models would look like as a photograph, made using a large format camera to make use of the camera movements to be able to place the focus, and orchestrate the composition, in a way that the real building would not allow.
Upstairs there were models of more contemporary buildings, including those ‘non realisee’. I didn’t understand the text on the walls, I didn’t want the interpretative headset, I wanted my experience to be a purely visual one. The battery on my 'sketchbook camera' was exhausted, and even that freed me to just look, not record.
There is a full size reconstruction of Le Corbusier’s Marseille Unité d'Habitation, the outside left with the method of construction showing. The kitchen sink unit looked like it was moulded from one piece of metal- a beautiful sculptural object.
Unité d'Habitation, Marseille, Le Corbusier 1947-1952
I won’t go on, but it felt like my jigsaw piece fitted right in this place, these vessels for containing light, these explanations that often brought more questions into my mind than answers.
I will get back to spend more time there, if my application for the residency is successful or not- I want to make work in that space, an interrogation of perception and scale, understanding, beauty and a consideration of unknowing.
I left Paris, to fly to Belfast to present a paper at the All Ireland Architecture Research Group (AIARG) annual conference. Judging by my overwhelming emotional response to the ‘Cite’ I feel secure in the fact that my work is firmly positioned in the conversation between photography and architecture, and now I am filled with excitement as to where that conversation will lead me.