One of the iconic Art Nouveau style entrances to the Parisian subway, this one, of the Entourage type, in Place Blanche right by the Moulin Rouge and the slopes of Montmartre.
Designed by French architect Hector Guimard at the turn of the 20th century, these avant-garde entryways have symbolized the city's Golden Age of art and architecture for over a century. Today, they continue to captivate, keeping the spirit of the Art Nouveau movement alive as they transport passersby to le Belle Époque Parisienne.
In the years leading up to the Exposition Universelle of 1900 Paris was busy building the Metropolitain, or Metro, a new public transit network. In order to make the above-ground components of this new underground system “as elegant as possible”, the Paris Metropolitan Railway Company commissioned Hector Guimard to design the entryways.
Guimard designed his entrances in concrete and cast iron painted a shade of green evocative of oxidized brass. Cast iron allowed him to construct the characteristic curved forms and concrete to incorporate sculpted details throughout each design—whether rendered as a roofed structure or an open entourage model.
Guimard's Edicule or “kiosk” metro entrance features a fan-like awning made of glass. Inspired by the wings of a dragonfly (one of Art Nouveau's major motifs), this style epitomizes the movement's interest in reinterpreting organic forms as functional objects. Today, only two original édicule entryways exist in Paris.
The other type of entryway is known as entourage or “enclosure”. This design features two serpentine, stem-like lamp posts joined by an equally sinuous arch. Each stalk is topped with a glowing red orb reminiscent of either an insect's eye or a flower bud.
Both the Edicule and entourage entryways are adorned with either “Metropolitain” or “Metro,” rendered in a typeface that has come to represent Art Nouveau.
In the years following their installation, Guimard's metro entryways were met with mixed reviews. While many people like Salvador Dalí, who claimed the “divine entrances... can descend into the region of the subconscious of the living and monarchical aesthetic of tomorrow”, enjoyed their elaborate designs, others thought they were over-the-top and even “un-French.”
During the second half of the 20th century, however, the structures were increasingly embraced. Today, the 86 remaining entryways are classified as historical monuments, ensuring they will remain a staple of Parisian streets for years to come.
As for Paris... what can one say about the City of Light that has not already been said...?
More views of Paris one copy-paste away in my Gallery at http://westonwestmoreland.com/collections/paris
May 20th, 2021
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