Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Sab's Top Ten Magical Paris Metro Signs: No.4 ~ "Palais Royal ~ Musée du Louvre"

POSTED IN:  ~ PlacesTop 10 ~ Metro ~ Signs

Sab's Top Ten Magical Paris Metro Signs
No.4 ~ "Palais Royal ~ Musée du Louvre" ~ Introduction
 Sab Will,  wannabe offbeat Paris street guru

I don't know about you, but for me there's something utterly magical about all those wonderful Paris metro signs, be they the traditional ones we're all familiar with, or the rather more unusual sort we're quite surprised and rather pleased to stumble come across on our cross-city travels.

In fact the variety is far greater than you might expect and their 'form' is far from 'uni'.

I didn't realise that at first though, which is why I rarely paid them much attention; I thought they were all just variations on the good old Hector Guimard Flowy Joey Art Nouveau style. This is not the case.

In this spontaneous series I'll be bringing you ten (or so, I find restrictions so... restricting) of my all time favourite Paris metro signs, classic or otherwise. As I'm writing this introduction with only the first sign below in mind I'd be delighted to have suggestions for the other nine!

It's also a great excuse to have a bit of fun with my cameras, both fancy, and not, the pic directly below being an example of the latter. It's an iPhone shot, played around with afterwards, and the limitations of the camera sure tests the inventivity of the photographer, which is half the fun. I hope you enjoy reading my Top Ten Magical Paris Metro Signs articles as much as I do writing them, and I look forward to reading your comments sometime down the line!

Sab's Top Ten Magical Paris Metro Signs
No.4 ~ "Palais Royal ~ Musée du Louvre"

At last, you are probably saying, we arrive at the sort of metro entrance which Paris is rightly famous for. Don't worry, I was never going to exclude the legendary art nouveau metro entrances from my top ten, and here's a prime example.

Designed by Hector Guimard, who was commissioned in 1899 to create the highly visible entrées/sorties for the burgeoning new underground transport system, he came up with what you see here. And the notoriously hard-to-please Parisians let him have it!

The lettering of 'Métropolitain', in a daring new fluid style was, they said, hard to read. And the huge, looming, tulipy lights were like the eyes of some horrendous creature from the lagoon, they protested. In the end, they just weren't ready for Guimard's new vision of an architecture based on living forms in an increasingly industrialised landscape. They'd come to feel comfortably cradled in their concrete jungle. Huge boggle-eyed monsters just a tad too lifelike were just a bit too much.

And so, from 1902 the powers that be started looking for less controversial visionaries, if there can be such a thing. In 1913 the installation of Guimard-inspired metro entrances stopped altogether. What's worse, in the 1960s some incredibly short-sighted renovation projects resulted in the actual destruction of several of these original works, making way for, can you believe it, utterly boring, mundane and characterless holes in the ground. Yep. Can you imagine how many foreign cities would love to have one of these splendid slices of Paris to call their own?

In fact, a handful actually do: Montreal, New York, and allegedly Munich and the... Sahara Desert. Hmm.

Luckily, there are still plenty to stumble across, into or out of, here in Paris (cancel the camel), and now that they are classified as national monuments they are likely to stay that way.

It's curious to see the evolution and variations of the extant examples of Guimard's oeuvre. There are other's which exhibit even more flamboyant art nouveau traits, and I will doubtless feature them in future postings, but this one has always particularly pleased me.

Not only are the looming monster eyes delightfully offset by the stern classicism of the Louvre, but there are two different panels, one for 'Métropolitain' and the other for the name of the station and the lines served, all in that lovely flowing font. I'm particularly fond of the part which says 'Lignes No.1.7' on each side of the 'Palais Royal ~ Musée du Louvre' text.

Some of you may be wondering if I'm going to mention the 'other' entrance/exit to the Palais Royal ~ Musée du Louvre metro station. Well, yes and no. If you don't know what I'm talking about, there is indeed an EXTRAORDINARY metro entrance to this station, but as it doesn't include the words 'metro', 'metropolitain' or any other text for that matter, it doesn't fall into the scope of this Top 10, which is 'Magical Metro Signs', and not 'Magical Metro Entrances'. If it were the latter, this 'other' entrance would probably be number one! Bon voyage, and see you at the next stop :-D



* 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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