Art Nouveau Métro

First opened in 1900, the Paris subway, the Métropolitain or Métro for short, reflects the art nouveau style of the time, inspired by natural forms and structures, especially curved lines. Some older Métro stations still have the original grillwork at the subway entrance.

We like art nouveau and appreciate tradition. Traveling around Paris, we ran across these examples:

metropolitain, St. Michel
metropolitain, St. Michel
metropolitain, Bastille
metropolitain, Bastille
metropolitain, Cite
metropolitain, Cite

The newer stations aren’t bad — they simply lack the style of the old.

metropolitain, Iena
metropolitain, Iena

To tradition, at least sometimes.

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Once Upon A Christmas

Window shopping at the Galeries Lafayette department store in Paris was a highlight of our December Christmas market trip.

Built in 1912, the boulevard Haussmann store has an 43-meter-high, art nouveau dome, with a Christmas tree under the dome during the holidays. In the art nouveau style, the balcony railings are made of iron.

hristmas tree and dome of Galeries Lafayette
Christmas tree and dome of Galeries Lafayette

The stained glass dome is a work of art and beautiful in its own right.

top dome of Galleries Lafayette
top dome of Galeries Lafayette

Puppets move around the base of the Christmas tree.

People flocked to see the holiday windows designed by Marc Jacobs. The theme was “Once upon a Christmas…Before the Clock Strikes Twelve”, featuring a red-headed Lilly doll and Martin the Bear. Children and adults alike loved the displays, as we did. We considered purchasing the Lilly doll, but it was very expensive. (Perhaps we should have expected that for a super-cute Marc Jacobs creation.) Despite the price, if we had a little girl in the family, we’d have bought one.

children watching Lilly at Galeries Lafayette
children watching Lilly at Galeries Lafayette

And Lilly dances in the window.

Enchanting, as the holidays are meant to be.

NYC Architecture: Art Deco

After World War I, growing industrialization increased the appreciation of symmetry, angles, manufacturing, and new materials such as stainless steel and aluminum — features of art deco. Accordingly, architecture shifted from beaux arts to art deco. We looked at three notable buildings constructed following World War I, and all are in the art deco style.

Chrysler Building

The Chrysler Building was the tallest building in the world when completed in 1930. It was built and owned by Walter Chrysler, who founded the car manufacturing company that he named after himself. The crown has seven radiating sunbursts clad with stainless steel, topped by a spire. In order to top another building, the spire was secretly assembled in a fire shaft and hoisted to the top and anchored in one and a half hours.

spire of Chrysler Building
crown and spire of the Chrysler Building

The metal and glass starbursts incorporate triangular windows to form the design, and the starbursts are part of the building structure, instead of stone decorations added to the exteriors of beaux-art buildings.

The lobby has rich, red marble and indirect lighting.

Chrysler Building lobby has red marble walls
Chrysler Building lobby has red marble walls

The elevator doors use metal and wood to form designs.

Chrysler Building elevators
Chrysler Building elevators with art deco designs

570 Lexington Avenue

The building at 570 Lexington Avenue was the first General Electric Building. GE subsequently relocated to a building at Rockefeller Plaza, so this first GE building is now known by its address. Completed in 1931, 570 Lexington Avenue has 50 stories. The entrance is metal and glass.

front door of 570 Lexington Ave.
front door of 570 Lexington Ave.

A GE clock still hangs on the street corner. The decorations are metal, instead of the stone of the beaux arts style. The red granite walls have parallel grooves for decoration.

GE clock at 570 Lexington Ave.
GE clock at 570 Lexington Ave.

The lobby was restored in 1996.

lobby of 570 Lexington Ave.
lobby of 570 Lexington Ave.

Each elevator entrance is set off with metal on top and grooved stone on the side. The elevator has metal torchieres in the corners.

elevator of 570 Lexington Ave.
elevator of 570 Lexington Ave.

570 Lexington has a gothic top, representing radio waves.

Gothic top of 570 Lex, representing radio waves
Gothic top of 570 Lexington Ave., representing radio waves

Empire State Building

Completed in 1931, the Empire State Building was the world’s tallest building for nearly 40 years.

Empire State Building
Empire State Building

The spire has metal art deco decorations, but this doesn’t look like the King Kong movies I remember!

art deco spire
art deco spire

The tall lobby is dominated by this metal mural that emphasizes the size of the Empire State Building.

lobby decoration of Empire State Building
lobby mural of Empire State Building
art deco elevator doors
art deco elevator doors

Following World War I, the stone-column and robed-statue decorations of beaux art were replaced with metal and glass of art deco.

Catalan Modernisme and Domenich i Montaner

Lluis Domenich i Montaner is a Barcelona Modernisme architect whose use of color make his work more accessible than Gaudi’s.

From our apartment in Born-Ribera, it was a short walk to his Palau de la Musica Catalana (Catalonia Music Palace). As with the cathedral, we walked by often to check out the lighting.

Palau de la Musica Catalana
Palau de la Musica Catalana
Palau de la Musica Catalana
Palau de la Musica Catalana

Color and design continues inside. Note the painted brick arches on the ceiling.

Palau de la Musica Catalana gift shop
Palau de la Musica Catalana gift shop

Domenich i Montaner also designed this hospital with Moorish windows and trees.

Hospital de Sant Pau
Hospital de Sant Pau

The Palau and Hospital won Barcelona’s Best Building awards in 1909 and 1912. They were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.

Catalan Modernisme and Gaudi

Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, an autonomous region of Spain. Located next to France on the Mediterranean, Catalonia has a stronger European influence than Madrid and southern Spain have. One area is architecture.

Antonio Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia is the best-known example of Catalan Modernisme architecture. Like its contemporary art nouveau movement, modernisme is based on flowing curves rather than straight lines.

La Sagrada Familia was started 130 years ago and is still under construction. The nativity facade is extremely ornate.

Sagrada Familia, nativity facade
Sagrada Familia, nativity facade
Sagrada Familia, nativity door
Sagrada Familia, nativity door

On the opposite side of the church, the passion facade is stark and spare.

Sagrada Familia, passion facade
Sagrada Familia, passion facade

Gaudi noticed that the traditional architectural shapes — triangles, squares, and rectangles — don’t appear in nature. Instead, he employed conical shapes found in bones, fingers, and trees.

Gaudi designed this apartment building called Casa Mila, also known as La Pedrera, the stone quarry. Completed in 1910, Casa Mila is on the most fashionable street on Barcelona, and it does not fit in with the neighborhood.

Casa Mila
Casa Mila

Note the undulating facade.

Casa Mila entrance
Casa Mila entrance

Gaudi’s Casa Batilo is a few blocks down the same fashionable street. See the use of color and the fanciful roof.

Casa Batilo
Casa Batilo
Casa Batilo first floor
Casa Batilo first floor