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Paris hoists its sails

Delegates to congresses in Paris will be blown away by new architectural icons

Maryalicia Post

Posted: Thursday, September 12, 2019

The newest museum in Paris, the Louis Vuitton Foundation (LVF), opened in the Bois de Boulogne in 2014. As the architect was Frank Gehry, you wouldn’t expect it to look like any building you’ve ever seen – and it doesn’t. You think of a fish, a bubble, a cloud. Gehry himself compares it to a ‘kind of regatta’, with the ship’s sails billowing in the wind.

Critics have called the building a vision and a triumph, but not everyone feels the magic. Construction was interrupted by legal challenges about its suitability to the site and planning permission restricted the height to two storeys. However, encased in the 12 glass sails, these two storeys soar skyward 46 metres.

The museum, sponsored by the LVMH group, was built principally to house LVF’s corporate collection of modern art. (Ownership of the building transfers as a gift to the city of Paris in 55 years.) An interior assemblage of 10 white rooms provides space for permanent and temporary exhibitions. There’s a dramatic waterfall inside and terraces outside with views of Paris glimpsed between the sails. The bookshop offers specially-designed souvenirs in an artistically restricted range of colours and materials.
If you’ve just come to see the exterior, the best vantage point is the park at the rear of the building. If you plan to visit an exhibition, consider buying a ‘Premium Access’ admittance ticket online. Otherwise you’ll need stamina and patience. Queues are long. Tickets here.

The museum is a half-hour walk from the Palais de Congress. A shuttle for ticket holders departs Place Charles de Gaulle, on the corner of Avenue de Friedland, every 20 minutes.

Closed Tuesdays. For full details and to read about ‘Le Frank’, the museum’s restaurant, visit https://www.fondationlouisvuitton.fr

In the spring of 2017 a new music venue opened on an island in the Seine. Designed by Shigeru Ban in partnership with Jean de Gastines, La Seine Musicale is a long narrow structure like a boat moored in the river. This, too, features a sail, this time a solar sail capable of producing 80,000 kilowatt-hours a year. It moves on rails around a donut-shaped structure atop the building.

At the heart of La Seine Musicale is a major concert hall and a jewel-like auditorium for classical music performances. Other features: an outdoor screen where the public can watch performances ranging from musical theatre and rock concerts to ballet and classic music and a spectacular roof garden, open to all, Wednesday to Sunday from 11 until sunset.

La Seine Musicale is 15 minutes by taxi from Expo. Website in French: www.laseinemusicale.com

3 walks

THE SIGHTS AT SPEED
If you’d rather run than walk, Paris Running Tours offer a range of sightseeing runs – two, three or four hours long – taking in the iconic sights of Paris. Each tour is personalised for you (or your group), beginning and ending at your hotel. The guide will be an experienced runner who will share his or her knowledge of the city. As a souvenir, you receive a map of your route and photos taken by the guide. Delegates to the ESCRS, EURETINA and EuCornea Congresses who are committed runners might consider a 6am, five-mile, Expo-Eiffel tour. For details of this and all the running tours visit www.parisrunningtour.fr

NEW WAYS OF SEEING
French speakers take note: Julie Boulanger, a long-time resident of the 15th arrondissement, guides very popular walking tours of the area. While the principal language of the tour is French, Julie speaks some English having lived in Québec (where she also runs tours). As the result of a childhood illness, Julie is only partially sighted, nevertheless, she believes she sees more than many sighted people. Julie is usually accompanied by her guide dog. An interesting background article on Julie, in French, is here. Her two-hour tour is called ‘Avec Les Yeux de Julie’. Reservations required (phoning is best). For contact details: http://aveclesyeuxdejulie.fr

TAKE A WALK – OR JOG – THROUGH HISTORY
A walk of little more than a kilometre from Expo Porte Versailles leads you to Parc Georges-Brassens, where you can run or walk various attractive paths, one leading past a vineyard, another to beehives. Named for the beloved French singer, songwriter and poet who lived in the 15th arrondissement, the park was once an abattoir; the sculpted bulls flanking the principal gate are by the 19th-Century artist Isadore Bonheur, brother to the famous painter, Rosa Bonheur. One of the last skirmishes between Nazis and resistance forces took place here the day Paris was liberated in August, 1944. A plaque at 61, rue des Morillons commemorates one of two who died – 34-year-old Emile Plaisant. In September, the park is open daily 08:00 to 20:30.