Saturday, 8 October 2011

Sab's Top Ten Fading Paris Finds: No.2 ~ "Stone Cold Art"

POSTED IN:  ~ PlacesTop 10 ~ Fading

Sab's Top Ten Fading Paris Finds
No.2: "Stone Cold Art" ~ Introduction 
by Sab Will,  wannabe offbeat Paris street guru

So there I was, wondering which of my 'Sab's Top Ten's to add a new number to, when I suddenly remembered a rather intriguing item I had discovered recently.

It wasn't a wall sign really, and it wasn't one of those splendid old shop signs, and it wasn't a sign of war, and it certainly wasn't a pavement plaque or a bridge... so what was it?

Well, it was a fading remnant of a Paris which is no more, that's what it was. And I realised that Paris is full of such spooky reminders. Hence my new 'Sab's Paris Top Ten', proudly, if enigmatically, entitled 'Sab's Top Ten Fading Paris Finds', and this serendipitous discovery was going to be Number 1!

I hope you enjoy this particularly intriguing series, and do send me suggestions for future items - I'll always buy you a coffee and a croissant for your efforts!

Sab's Top Ten Fading Paris Finds
No.2 ~ "Stone Cold Art"

If there was ever a place in Paris which intrigued me, as much by its name alone as anything else, it was Les Frigos. The Fridges.

I'd been told about it many times, but only actually found it for myself a few months ago, and only ventured inside this summer on an open day.

The full story of this incredible place, now a series of the strangest and most wonderful artists' studios you could ever imagine, will have to wait for another day (but watch my output, it's already cropped up more than once). What I'm interested in here is not what's going on today, but in what's faded, or fading, away.

And there it is, clearly visible, if barely legible, up on the side of the lower building jutting out from the main edifice in the direction of Rue des... Frigos.

Look closely and the word 'Paris' is fairly easy to see. Off to the left you can just about make out 'FIQUE' which comes from 'frigorifique' and further off to the left the most degraded and yet most enigmatic word of all. Gare. Station.

Which leaves us with Gare Frigorifique de Paris. The Refrigerated Train Station of Paris. What on earth is that about? Well, it's pretty much what it says on the wall. Back in the 1920s it was constructed to keep foodstuffs coming from outside Paris by rail cold before being distributed throughout the city.

Artists and a wide variety of other creative folks now inhabit the locale, with many of the studios being inside the original, room-sized fridges themselves, complete with cooling apparatus overhead and hugely thick isolating doors, which only adds to the fascination of the place.

There's one more part of this fading find which particularly intrigues: just after the word 'Paris' is what looks like 'IV' followed by something else, but a window which was clearly punched through the wall after its construction has destroyed the end of the phrase. It couldn't be 'IVX', for '14th arrondissement', because it's in the 13th.

Interesting. I'm sure there's a perfectly obvious explanation, such as it being frozen foods depot number six or number 14 or something, but my brain won't be completely satisfied until it finds out what that explanation is. If you know... please tell me!

Oh, and I should say that as an addendum to this piece, your intrepid urban explorer wasn't happy just to accept that it used to be a station with trains chugging past. I wanted proof. And sure enough, in the rather run-down foreground to the place, look what I found! The last two photos here sum up exactly what I love about this city: echos and 'winks' from yesteryear are everywhere, trundling through our periphery vision like ghost trains, and long may they remain so.

Discover all my Fading Paris Finds... 


* Sab Will runs Photo and Curios Tours in Paris, and also manages a variety of Paris and photography-themed sites and blogs. He writes an illustrated Paris Chronicle every day, runs a Meetup group for Paris lovers, interviews Paris personalities and reviews Paris books (on this blog), and even contributes to the city's street art (shh), so feel free to browse some of the links below and in the right-hand column to find out more about what he gets up to out there...

© 2011 Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Suggestions, questions, requests and offers always welcome!

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