Wednesday, May 23, 2007
05.21.07: Bienvenue a Paris
I arrived in Paris this morning, and after dropping my bag off at the hotel, I headed straight for Notre Dame de Paris. What better way to kick off this trip than to start with Our Lady of Paris. Notre Dame is as magnificent as ever, and this is the first time I have seen the entire front façade scaffold free.
It reminded me why is so important for architects to travel (not that I needed much reminding). It makes me think of a line from one of the books I have my second year design students read: “Traveling is to the architect what the academy is to the man of letters”. Notre Dame underscores this idea, because it is simple not possible to understand a gothic cathedral without experiencing it. I often talk about the gothic cathedral as a “vessel of Light”. But today I was reminded how dark these spaces actually are. It is not the quantity of light that makes the space of a gothic building special, rather the lack of light that creates the drama. These cavernous, dark spaces come to life with light transformed through stained glass. The scale of the cathedral, the verticality of the interior space, even the smell of the stone space cannot be fully appreciated without a firsthand experience. Travelling is indeed an integral part of the education of an Architect.