What follows is a visual story of a 33-day trip to Paris, Berlin, Rome and Central Israel. It tells a story about architecture, art, streets and people as we saw it, similarly to the way it could have been done in a film or in a narration.
When a friend offered us to have her apartment in Paris during the second half of June, we steered our original traveling plan, to visit our daughter in Israel, into a journey of exploration and discovery. We called our old Parisian friends Bernard and Catherine and asked for their help “to become Parisians for two weeks.” Their advice was unique. They also suggested to follow up our visit with a trip to Berlin together. We said “yes.” And how could we be in Europe without visiting Rome?
Unlike a film, this post offers flexibility in watching what you want to see in the order of your choice. You can: a. rapidly scan throughout the four galleries, to get a sense of the whole; b. focus on a particular place of your interest by clicking on the image; c. look at each gallery as a slideshow.
Our place of residence was in rue du Bac, in the 7th arrondissement, close to Boulevard Saint-Germain. We had all that we needed in our footsteps: metro, bus, markets, and boulangeries with baguettes.
Frank Gehry’s Louis Vuitton Foundation was high on our visiting priorities. This work had provoked passionate discussions pro and against, and we wanted to make our own judgment. The building offered a valid example of what is possible in the creation of architectural spaces beyond the subject matter. We found fluidity of space and the use of steel, laminated wood and glass quite extraordinary.
Bernard led us to two less acrobatic buildings designed by Renzo Piano: the small Pathé Foundation with a wood and glass shell encrusted between old buildings which included a gate sculpted by Auguste Rodin, and the recently inaugurated 38-story high Courthouse.
The museums and galleries visited included the Orangerie, the Palais de Tokio, the Guimet Museum of Asian Art, the Petit Palais the Museum Picasso. Included in the gallery are selected artworks of our choice.
However, above all, we dedicated most of our time to walking the streets of Paris and using its excellent public transportation system to move around at ease. Our wanderings included Le Marais, the Canal Saint-Martin area with its community choirs, the Promenade Plantée, the Parc de Bercy, the Parc de la Villette, Les Halles, and the markets at Boulevard Raspaille, at rue Mouffetard and at Chateau Rouge, called Quartier Africain.
We had visited Berlin thirty-two years ago when the infamous wall still divided the city. This time we wanted to get a feeling of the city as a whole, to visit some of its architecture, art museums and galleries, and to meet with our friend Franka Hörnschemeyer, a committed sculptor.
Coming from Paris, Berlin seemedto us a disjointed city, frequently out of human scale. However, being conscious of its intense intellectual life, I was not surprised why it had become so attractive to many artists. The city gave the feeling that it was still evolving, and that one could be part of its making.
Foster’s Reichstag dome, with its transparent structure for people sitting on top of the government, is an excellent symbol of the new Germany. The dome is essentially a viewing platform from which the public can observe the surrounding city. The design is an ultimate example of sustainable design. The inverted conical structure with a surface composed of 360 mirrors reflects light into the parliamentary chamber below to save energy on lighting. It operates in concert with a moving screen which eliminates glare.
Peter Eisenman’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is a powerful statement, particularly because of its closeness to the Reichstag. It evokes a graveyard for those who were unburied or thrown into unmarked pits. Several uneasily tilting stelae suggest an old, untended cemetery. Libeskind’s Jewish Museum is a dissonant gesture of defiance that commemorates the loss. And last but not least, I.M Pei ’s extension to the German Historical Museum brings in modernity in Pei’s well-known architectural language.
Renzo Piano not only created the urban plan for Potsdamer Platz but also designed eight of its buildings. The buildings include the Debris-Haus, the Arkaden shopping mall and the Theater and Casino that meet in the Marlene Dietrich Platz. Other architects on additional ten buildings include Rafael Moneo, Richard Rogers, and Helmut Jahn, who designed the Sony Center, a mixture of shops, restaurants, a conference center, hotel rooms, luxurious tented suites, and condominiums.
Our visits also included Hans Scharoun’s Philarmonic, built in 1963, the Berlinische Gallery and the Hamburger Hof Museum.
ROME’S EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
After having lived in Rome during seven crucial years of our professional formation, being back to its streets, its people and its beauty felt like “coming back home.” Our wandering around included de Campo de’ Fiori market and the Historic Center streets and piazzas. The only target we had on our schedule was the MAXXI’s exhibitions on Bruno Zevi’s work and influence, and on Tel Aviv’s Bauhaus architecture. The recently published documentary “Zevi” illustrates the great architecture critic and historian work and personality. During a couple of days we spent there, we also managed to meet with our friends Viviana and film producer Adriana Chiesa Di Palma.