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Current time:0:00Total duration:4:57

Hector Guimard, Cité entrance, Paris Métropolitain

Video transcript

we're on the Ile de la Cite a in Paris sandwiched in between San Chapelle and the Palace of Justice in a large open square not far from the Louvre this is the very heart of Paris and we're looking at an entranceway for the Paris métro that was designed by hector guimard around 1900 it's one of the quintessential examples of the Art Nouveau and it's not situated in any one place about a hundred of these that were manufactured out of cast-iron painted green to look like bronze it has acquired a patina copper often turns that beautiful blue or green and this is painted in order to look like that but bronze is far too expensive and this was meant to be done cheaply it was manufactured in a modular system that allowed it to be produced in large number and easily assembled and it was wildly modern but of course it wasn't only for the elite it was for everybody the shift in the Art Nouveau from a style associated with expensive items for a industrial nouveau riche to applying that style with its organic forms to something that's mass-produced this is a subway station for a middle-class that needed to move around freely in this new capitalist culture it's a good reminder that there are idealist aspirations of creating something beautiful for the masses something that could be mass-produced and easy to assemble and cheap beauty was it only for the rich for the aristocracy the Paris subways as a project was accelerated because of the coming of a large exposition in 1900 in Paris and this was meant to help move a lot of people around the city and of course it has been incredibly successful but let's take a look it is nothing like it in the subways that I'm used to in New York City it announces itself it doesn't hide it isn't afraid of its modernity you just hit on one of the main issues for the Art Nouveau it was to counter all the historic izing that had been so much a part of the nineteenth century think about architecture for well you have people reviving the Gothic the egyptian-style you have people reviving it classical so Jamar is asking what would a purely modern style look like it's interesting that he goes back to nature a lot of architects were asking this question instead of looking back at those older styles and using that vocabulary how could the artists of the late 19th century of this mass industrial culture create a style that suited that culture in fact art nouveau existed across Europe and had different regional variations in Spain and Vienna and Belgium and in France we see the use of organic forms like we see here with gamar I'm looking up at the sign itself it's held up suspended between two plant like stalks that look as if they're budding except that the blossom which is yet to open is actually a lamp there's a tree that's right next to one of the posts one of its branches is tucked under the lamp and you can really see the distinction between nature and this highly stylized representation of the organic which is really the point here this is not a representation of nature it is a stylizing of the quality of growth growth is a key word there are places where we have upward movement those comes made to look like stocks that support the lamp but we also see forms that seem to kind of melt or move downward there's also a quality of unfurling the way that a palm frond or especially the frond of a fern uncurls as it grows there is this wonderful quality not only of the organic but of a kind of organic in motion this gave us an awfully good condition although you can see in places where the paint is chipped off that it's been repainted many times and there's certainly some rust there's one section that's in extremely good condition that's the sign that says metropolitan and that was made out of ground lava the architects is intentionally looking for materials that are going to laugh it's a kind of ceramic the part of that sign that I find most beautiful is the typeface the letters have a really organic rounded quality it feels hand-drawn in some ways look at the Elle that almost looks like a leg that's walking forward full quality to it notice how it moves from a dark green blue down to a lighter blue and so the entire object from the typeface to the Oval of the sign to the wonderful sinuous unfurling stalks that surround it everything feels as if it's in motion that there's a kind of dynamism and what a perfect visual metaphor for a subway system