Paris Reflections, Fall Edition N.1: Le Palais-Royal, La Comédie-Française, La Pyramide du Louvre
Palais-Royal: 8, rue Montpensier, 75001. Designed by architect Jacques Lemercier (1585-1684) in 1639
Originally known as Le Palais-Cardinal, Le Palais-Royal (or royal residence), acquired its name after the death of Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642). Its stately façade is visible along rue Saint-Honoré, but claims an official address of 8, rue de Montpensier. Presently, it houses La Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication, Le Conseil d’état, and Le Conseil Constitutionnel. Designed by architect Jacques Lemercier (1585-1684) in 1639, the entire complex is reminiscent of neoclassical glory. Structural harmony and formal grandeur are produced with an emphasis on geometrical precision, symmetry, and monochromatic use of materials. The effect is reinforced with the repetition of solid columns, rounded arches, and refined pilasters topped with Corinthian entablatures. Structural levels and registers are vertically-horizontally delineated with the addition of delicate balustrades. Every element complements the other, thus creating visual balance.
Remnants of the La Galerie d’Orléans columns still exist, located between La Cour d’Honneur and Le Jardin du Palais-Royal. Fountains by Belgian sculpture Pol Bury (1922 – 2005) affectionately known as Sphérades due to their large, metallic spheres, and other temporary sculpture installations can also be found in the royal gardens. La Cour d’Honneur is an open, communal zone. It is home to the site-specific artwork by Daniel Buren, Les Deux Plateaux (1986) (or Les Colonnes de Buren) – striped black and white posts of varying dimensions. The interconnection between neoclassical and modern is prevalent here. There is a constant re-contextualization and reconfiguration of public space for contemporary society. Although Le Palais-Royal is historically steeped in exclusivity and elitism, all visitors are afforded the option of strolling through the tree-lined gardens, as well as the colonnaded arcades filled with electric lamps, contemporary galleries, fashion boutiques, and an assortment of restaurants including Le Grand Véfour. First opened in 1784 by Antoine Aubertot, it was later purchased by Jean Véfour in 1820.
Comédie-Française: 2, rue de Richelieu, Place André-Malraux, 75001. Salle Richelieu, designed by architect Victor Louis (1731-1800) in 1790.
La Comédie-Française is an elegant, three-century old institution located on 2, rue de Richelieu. Located adjacent to Le Palais-Royal, it exudes a formidable aura. Salle Richelieu, site of the present La Comédie-Française, was designed by architect Victor Louis (1731-1800) in 1790. Stately columns, delicate balustrades, elegant arches, and refined pilasters with ornate entablatures add to the structure’s formal composition. Its façade complements that of Le Palais-Royal with its visual symmetry and concise delineation of space, clearly visible with its vertical and horizontal registers. Founded by Louis XIV in 1680, La Comédie-Française was the result of the merging of two theatrical groups of the seventeenth century: Théâtre Guénégaud and Hôtel de Bourgogne. A total of twenty-seven were actors were chosen specifically by Le Roi-Soleil.
The establishment, part of Le Palais-Royal complex, is formerly known as Le Théâtre-Français and La Maison de Molière, after renowned playwright Molière (1622-1673), né Jean-Baptiste Poquelin. The company, which had a repertory of writers including Molière, Corneille, and Racine, held a monopoly over performances in Paris until 1790. The original association of actors included, among others: Jeanne Beauval, Hubert de Croisy, and Armande Béjart. The establishment has been located at its present site, Salle Richelieu, since 1799, and has undergone several enlargements and modifications over the years.
Pyramide du Louvre: Palais du Louvre, Cour Napoléon, 75001. Designed by architect I. M. Pei (1917 – ) in 1989.
Finally, the controversial La Pyramide du Louvre was designed by Chinese architect I. M. Pei (1917 – ) and is centrally located in La Cour Napoléon of the Le Palais du Louvre. Commissioned by French President François Mittérand in 1984, it was completed in 1989. The imposing metal and glass structure has a base of 35 meters and stands nearly 22 meters tall. It serves as a main entrance to Le Musée du Louvre, and is surrounded by a water feature in addition to three smaller pyramids. An inverted pyramid accompanies the entirety of the complex, and serves as a skylight for the Carrousel du Louvre shopping district located directly below.
Critics of the structure have argued that its hyper-modernity in use of materials exists in direct contrast to the classical, symmetrical, and visually-balanced Palais du Louvre. Harsh, severe angles created by the glass structure create a prominent juxtaposition against Le Palais du Louvre. However, opponents note that the complexity of architectural components reflect France’s dynamic, historical trajectory which encourages provocative discussion, inspires innovative techniques, and stimulates creativity among its population. The juxtaposition of neoclassical elements with modern elements creates a modern, fresh association that is constantly evolving. This is executed by promoting thoughtful expression, respect, and appreciation cross-culturally in an ever-expanding expanding globalized community. In the twenty-first century, most would agree that La Pyramide du Louvre is the embodiment of a transformative French nation par excellence; one that cherishes past endeavors, but fully embraces future possibilities.
Author: Jewel K. Goode, Independent Curator, Photographer, and Educator
Sources: La Comédie Française: www.comediefrancaise.fr; Wikipedia Louvre Pyramid: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louvre_Pyramid; Wikipedia Palais-Royal: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palais-Royal