Tuesday, September 28, 2010

La Defense

When I was in landscape architecture school, I did a precedent study on La Grande Arche de la Defense in Paris, France. The assignment was to do a precedent study on memorials in preparation for a redesign (at least a student version of redesign, not a real world project) of the Holocaust Memorial in Philadelphia. I understand why memorials happen, but I don't love them. I think they are overly common in today's world, which causes the whole idea of the memorial to be lost. Not to sound unsympathetic, they have their place, but I think we need to think before we add another to the world. Certain situations, like Maya Lin's Vietnam Veteran's Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, they make sense. Anyway, I chose a non-traditional memorial to study. And I had been there before. Bonus!

When I was an exchange student in Denmark during high school, I took a trip around Europe for a month. One stop, of course, was Paris. But it was towards the end of my 363 days abroad and I was low on funds. So I scoffed at the ticket price to go up the elevator in La Grande Arche and instead admired it from below and afar.

But La Defense is more than just the Grande Arche. It is the high-rise office district located several kilometers west of center city Paris. It is home to the tallest buildings in Paris and is a striking part of the skyline. The region was once home to warehouses and factories and was considered the least attractive part of Paris. Redevelopment of this area began in the first half of the 20th century in order to create a business district for the city. This resulted in the extension of the Axe Historique and Voie Triumphale and provided a place for expansion of urban public space.

The district is named for a monument, La Defense de Paris, which is a memorial to the soldiers who fought in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870-71 (www.wikipedia.com). This older monument has since been relocated to another site near its original location (www.paris-pass.com). La Defense has been very controversial. The architectural style of this area is in stark contrast to that of the rest of Paris. La Defense is modern, consisting of tall buildings constructed of concrete, glass and metal. This is the only region in the Paris vicinity to have such tall buildings. Critics have described La Defense as “a forest of buildings”. The buildings are all lined up in 2 rows, one on either side of the street (www.wikipedia.com).

So as a grown-up, I went back, in July, 2009, and spent a rain-filled afternoon wandering around La Defense with my husband. In fact, I think it was the first thing we did after arriving and checking in to the hotel. My husband is a trooper for tolerating and even showing enthusiasm for my crazy landscape architecture-related antics. I took hundreds of photos in just a few hours, so picking which to post was difficult. Here are just a few.

a Miro sculpture and a very funky paving pattern

La Defense's take on vertical growth

a tiny vineyard in La Defense

my photo from the museum, www.grandearche.com

Here are the specs and more history in a nut shell, please skip if you feel the need. If you want more on the history, contact me and I would be happy to share.

Construction of La Grande Arche de La Defense began in 1982 and was completed in 1989. Inauguration took place in July, 1989. La Grande Arche, also know as Le Grande Arche de la Fraternite and La Toit de la Grande Arche, is situated on axis with many of Paris’ famous skyline sights, 4 km west of center city in La Defense district (www.wikipedia.com). La Grande Arche was designed by Danish architect Johan Otto Von Spreckelsen of Denmark. Spreckelsen died during construction and the monument was completed by French architect Paul Andreu (www.denmark.dk).
  • 100 square meter footprint
  • 110 meters high
  • 108 meter width
  • 112 meter depth
  • Prestressed concrete frame
  • White/gray marble cladding with glass windows on exterior and interior facing walls
  • Fabric canopy under archExterior tube elevators

Marmoleum and Cabinets!

We installed the flooring over the weekend, only to find that we were 2.5 12" x 36" pieces short of finishing! Ugh! And that included ordering 10% more than we expected to need. So more was ordered and will be finished this week. In real life, it is more gray-black than blue.

Cabinets were installed yesterday. The lighting in there sucks right now, so hence the bad coloration. And they are completely covered in dust at the moment, too.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The New Design Assistant

Garlic is helping with the design choices on the kitchen remodel. She seems to really like the new Marmoleum flooring in Volcanic Ash. Now, if she would just point to a paint color.....

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My So-Called, Dust-Filled Life

We are in the middle of a kitchen remodel, not to mention a few other projects. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), I am at a time and place in life where I get to supervise the General Contractor. Fun, fun, fun.

The house is about a century old. Day 4 and here is what I have learned:

I learned on Sunday the the kitchen radiator, which needed to be moved, was probably installed in 1948. The plumber, at that time, left us a March 1948 calendar under the flooring at the radiator.

We learned during demolition that the cabinets were probably original. Built in place boxes. Maybe the doors were painted and hardware replaced since. We salvaged both and will reuse them on newly constructed boxes in Garage Mahal in the future (yes, I mean Another project!).

I learned that it hurts a little (ok, a lot!) to hear the GC ripping away at old brick in the name of new chimney hood duct work.

I learned that plumbers are notorious users of profanity. I wonder if Mr. 1948 Plumber used the same profane words when he installed it as Mr. 2010 Plumber used when he tried to remove it.

I learned that arguments are bound to happen between spouses when remodels happen.

I learned that maybe the previous owners weren't as stupid as I thought. They just didn't remodel because they weren't as brave. They didn't want to tackle the challenges that we have or will need to overcome before this is through.

I learned that designers do not always explain all the flaws in a design, whether it is their fault or not and that at least 4 sets of eyes are not enough to catch all mistakes. This one hits particularly close to home, as I am a designer and I frequently am responsible for quality control on drawings.

I learned that no matter how much you plan, there will always be more work and money involved. If you accept this theory, life will be easier.

I learned that this will not be easy, clean or even accurate. That me and my spouse will have to both realize that we are not always right and that the designer, contractors and everyone else cannot be either. That just sucks, but it is what it is. That is the 'joy' of updating a century-old habitat. The house has an attitude that will not be suppressed through saws, PEX and paint. That attitude should be honored to some extent.

I learned that beer is the beverage of choice during a remodel involving a kitchen. It is in a self-contained, small necked, reusable bottle. This reduces dust floaties in your beverage, such as one encounters with wine, which will continue to catch the still-settling floaties, which are constantly in the air. Stick with beer, stay safe from floaties and get some sleep in the process.

I am only 4 days into this process, 2 for us and 2 for the contractors. This process will go on and on because we are not independently wealthy. We cannot just hire someone to do it all. Nor are we the type to do that anyway.

More to come...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bring on the Equinox!

I have been stuck at home sick for the past few days. Apparently, I don't do feverish and sleepless very well.

Scott is away and hopefully will escape my contamination. I have exhausted all daytime television options. I started with The Galloping Gourmet, which was probably produced before I was born. Next, Julia Childs. These were both pretty entertaining. For a while at least. Then I moved on to HGTV. Finally, around midday today, the Benadryl-induced fog lifted, the headache faded and I decided it was time to turn off the TV and open the curtains.

My sister and I were discussing yesterday about how when we are sick, we would LOVE to just lay around and get some reading done. But that never happens, because you are so sick. Medications, headaches, all that stuff takes away from the reading option. But I opened the curtains and grabbed an old magazine that I have been meaning to read for, oh, 3 years or so.

I moved hesitantly from the comfy couch nest that I had constructed of blankets, Apple products and remote controls to Scott's big leather club chair. The light shining through the window was great. The angle of the sun has changed and it wasn't in my eyes, making me feel like a potato baking in the oven. Fall is here!

Summer of 2010 will go down in history books for the never-ending heat. It all just supports my need to move farther north. I am convinced that sometime in my life I will experience an 80 degree average winter in an area that I used to ski and that scares the crap out of me.

So the promise of cooler, cozy autumn weather and sun rays that I actually welcome instead of shrivel back from is a good thing. Maybe tomorrow I will even feel well enough to go outside.