Category Archives: Paris

We can rebuild it — more beautiful than before

In central Paris, modern architecture is vandalism; in the suburbs, it is hell

Dalrymple writes that the French president’s speech about the Notre-Dame fire

contained a terrible threat: he said that the cathedral would be rebuilt to be even more beautiful than before.

And the French prime minister announced that a competition would be held to design ‘a spire suited to the techniques and challenges of our time’. This, says Dalrymple,

should send a chill down the spine of anyone familiar with the efforts of modern architects in Paris, the effects of which can be seen all around the city.

The monumental public buildings constructed using techniques to meet the challenges of our time include

  • the Centre Pompidou
  • the Tour Montparnasse
  • the Opéra Bastille
  • the Musée du quai Branly
  • the new Philharmonie

Each one of these structures would, says Dalrymple,

gain at least an honorable mention in a competition for ugliest building in the world.

The Bibliothèque nationale de France, too, was largely rehoused using the techniques of our time, which

included failure to notice that the damp caused by a low water table and sun shining directly through walls of glass were not very good for 15th-century books.

Dalrymple notes that the post-Second-World-War vernacular, with its curtain walls and ribbon windows, is

universally depressing, a single one of its buildings being able to ruin the harmony of an entire street.

In view of

the narcissism of modern architects, particularly of the star variety, when called upon to make additions to older buildings,

a strict restoration of Notre-Dame would be safer.

There should be no competition, except among craftsmen and those who can suggest new ways to make old appearances.

Macron said that he wanted the cathedral restored within five years—in time for the opening of the 2024 Olympics in Paris. Dalrymple comments:

It would be hard to think of a more kitsch idea in the Soviet tradition than this.

An American in barbaric Paris

A breathless New York Times ninny on a visit to the French capital writes that the Centre national de la danse building (Jacques Kalisz, 1972), at which she

stared open-mouthed

for a long, long time,

radiates childlike exuberance.

Dalrymple remarks:

Anyone who can see childlike exuberance in such a building is capable of seeing the milk of human kindness in a Nuremberg Rally.

 

Handmaiden to the wholesale collapse of æsthetic judgement

A silly woman from the Times newspaper of New York gushes on a visit to Paris as she ‘gazes in awe‘ at the ‘ugly-beautiful’ modern buildings. Dalrymple comments:

They are not ugly-beautiful; they are ugly, without any æsthetic qualification, and grossly dysfunctional to boot.

From fear of making an unequivocal judgment that might cause her to be branded conservative, backward-looking, or naïve, this New York Times nincompoop acts, says Dalrymple,

as a praise-singer to the collapse of æsthetic ability and appreciation.

 

Repulsive, disfigured Paris

The approaches to the city are visually hideous, writes Dalrymple.

Practically everywhere beyond the confines of the centre, the eye is greeted by a modernist mess of gargantuan proportions, and every occasional building that is not a total eyesore was built before 1945.

He notes that there has been

an utter collapse of æsthetic ability, judgment, and appreciation in France.

Odious eyesores in the City of Light

Paris has the distinction, writes Dalrymple, of having constructed three of the worst buildings in the world:

  • the Centre Georges Pompidou
  • the Musée du quai Branly Jacques Chirac
  • the Philharmonie de Paris

 

Lovely climate for a march

REVOLTING SMUGNESS: ‘It was a beautiful day in Paris for a demonstration, brilliantly sunny and not too hot, and the crowds were out: obviously bourgeois, prosperous, well-behaved, and not at all multiracial or even multicultural. It was a marche pour le climat, as though the climate were an oppressed person wrongly imprisoned by a distant dictatorship. Such nice, good, well-intentioned people! I found it all terribly depressing. The organisers estimated the crowd at 50,000, the police at 18,500. I did not actually attend it, my taste for clichéd speeches interspersed with snatches of popular music being very limited. But I watched the crowds on their way to the demonstration, mostly with beatific expressions on their faces, as if aware that they were doing something really good like feeding the hungry or healing the sick. They were both saving the planet and amusing themselves on a Saturday afternoon.’

Postcard from Les Halles

Dalrymple writes that not long ago, the Paris newspaper the Monde published an article ‘inquiring why so many of the young people from the dispiriting banlieues (suburbs around Paris populated largely by blacks and people of North African ­descent) did not venture into the centre of Paris much beyond Les Halles, a huge concrete commercial centre. They said they did not feel at ease in the centre of Paris, they preferred Les Halles because it felt more American — by which they meant pop music throbbing everywhere, and shops selling ghetto outfits with baseball caps to wear backwards and sideways.’

At the Métro station

Dalrymple sees several youths,

one of them with horrible rap music emanating loudly from somewhere about his person,

climb over the barriers to avoid paying for a ticket. They do so, he says, with impunity, in full view of the public and staff.

No one stops them or says anything to them; it isn’t worth the trouble. They are pleased with what they have done, an expression of the power of the powerless.

Dalrymple imagines that they

would have turned angry if anyone had said anything to them, as if their human rights were being infringed.

How ya gonna keep ’em down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree?

Or as Dalrymple puts it,

how will the emirs keep their daughters penned in seclusion, once they have seen the dashboard lights?

He draws attention to de Tocqueville’s observation (L’Ancien Régime et la Révolution, 1856):

Le régime qu’une révolution détruit vaut presque toujours mieux que celui qui l’avait immédiatement précédé, et l’expérience apprend que le moment le plus dangereux pour un mauvais gouvernement est d’ordinaire celui où il commence à se réformer.

Macron’s manifold flaws

Jumping into a taxi in Paris, Dalrymple gets talking to the (Vietnamese) driver about the presidential election. The driver says he is not a fan of Marine Le Pen, but if in the second round she is pitted against Emmanuel Macron, he will vote for her. Dalrymple asks what puts him off the male aspirant. The driver points out that Macron

  • is an unknown quantity
  • has an unpleasing face — not exactly ugly, but hard, ruthless and predatory
  • is too young
  • is a bungler
  • has enjoyed a too meteoric rise
  • is a half-cocked tinkerer at the margins rather than the radical reformer needed in these times
  • lacks experience
  • has a personal life that is rather odd (maybe he is his wife’s puppet)
  • is too plainly the candidate of the European political élite, something which of course counts greatly against him