miércoles, 29 de octubre de 2014

Narcissus in the Forest

1. Foundation Louis Vuitton (f. 2014, @Iwanbaan).

"Everything has already been said
but since nobody listens, we always have to restart".
 André Gide. Le Traité du Narcisse.1

1. Fractal Chastity
"Narcissus was perfectly beautiful, -and therefore disdained the Nymphs- because he was in love with himself. No breeze muddied the waters where, quiet and inclined, he stared all day at his image..."2 This is the voice of André Gide, referring to the myth of Narcissus, who could very well go on like this: "The waters also reflected the sky, the trees and the flying birds, and still ongoing, further, fell in gentle waterfall, dragging the leaves of the forest, deeper, continuing until they disappeared beneath his unparalleled body". From last Monday, October 27, 2014, the unparalleled body of another mythological creature, elongated, reclined, leaning, resting, but levitating, rising amidst the woods, to be exact de Boulogne, began to inflict the overwhelming allure of its colossal volume publicly onto the whole of mankind. We are talking about the Foundation Louis Vuitton, an art museum and cultural center. 

The gigantic new transparent Adonis of contemporary architecture is also "perfectly beautiful" -according to current standards-. In its absolute infatuation with itself, it unveils -and veils-, replicating, emulating, -but now in "glass sails effect"-, every dance, every move, every "form taxonomy" from its maker, the American-Canadian architect Frank Gehry: from the collages, the floating fishes, the blocks, the blobs, the continuity, the flux and even the lava, done before in titanium and steel: everything is there.3 Before this, the celestial cherubim chorus of the global community of architectural critics, hand in hand, sings in unison: "We have a new Crystal Palace!"4

Nothing or nobody could hold back the creative pact made between Bernard Arnault, Louis Vuitton chairman, and Frank Gehry when they decided -yes, they decided, both of them, all by themselves- on a beautiful 2007 New York afternoon what they would do there, on that very place, the old site of the Paris' Jardin d'Acclimatation, property of LMVH. Baptized as “a haute couture building, the project from the beginning, progressed unstoppable and directly to completion, disdaining, in all of its fractal chastity, every Nymph that came across its way. Today, anybody who contemplates  the Bois de Boulogne from any elevated viewpoint, will see how it is no longer the old, deep and peaceful forest that quietly bordered the city on the southwest. The Foundation Louis Vuitton took over its landscape, turned it into its pedestal: its vitreous shell, its cetacean back now monstruously swims among the oaks and the pines as if it was its own green pond.

Tant pis for them, the Parisians. They seem unaware of the city they have. Subjected to the European complex of eternal change, they see old Paris as a burden that must periodically be refreshed, so that every day it looses another bit of herself to become more like the other metropolis of the world. Luckily, I am fright-cured. Very early in my life my parents, whom I thank publicly today, took me to visit the tinsels of  Fantasyland. But at the right time: during childhood, its ideal scenario. Therefore, I do not shake before the Architectures-as-Sculptures nor before the Architectures-as-Spectacle with which certain companies want to sell more bags. 

I quote here, to conclude, a tweet  I literally catched on the fly in my TL last week. It was an aclaratory, or better, a reminder... just in case: RT @LVServices: "Hello. The Fondation Louis Vuitton is not a Louis Vuitton store".5

2. The Foundation Louis Vuitton seen from the Arc de Triomphe in Paris (f. 2014, @leCMN )

2. The Maupassant Syndrome
Today's urban memory is written by Roland Barthes: "Guy de Maupassant often lunched at the restaurant in the Tower, though he didn't care much for the food: It t's the only place in Paris, he used to say, where I don't have to see it".6  Much in spite of Maupassant, the then revolutionary structure designed by Gustave Eiffel for the Paris 1900 Universal Exhibition, came to stay. The singular saga of its evolution from controversial object to fundamental element of the urban landscape, nevertheless, has since wanted to be re-edited by many buildings, as if it was a patented formula for  automatic sucess in the city. It happened once with the Pompidou, at the expense of Le Marais.

Each time a starchitect wants that his/her new strong piece of modern architecture is accepted in an urban landscape, the argument is the same: "It will look like nothing you've seen before!". This time is no different. Although Gehry's "Glass Cloud" in the beginning did not have carte blanche, the media hardly ever speaks about the -lost- battle fought by the neighbors in court, which started by asking something very logical from a heritage point of view: that the height of the building would not exceed the tree tops. When LMHV appealed to the french Parliament itself, and it put and end to the debate making an appropriate exception in the law, the international press began to refer to the neighbors gathered in the Coordination for the Protection of the Bois de Boulogne and its Surroundings, as ignorant art "Philistines" or selfish NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) groups.7

From now on, nobody on earth will stop seeing Gehry's architecture dominating the Bois de Boulogne daily from here to eternity, not only the neighbors living on its periphery. An imposed vision. Serve this as a reminder for all those large insignia-projects where the opinion of the citizens is not taken into account, like the Football Staidum of  La Rinconada ("Parque Hugo Chávez") by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, or the Observation Tower of La Carlota ("Parque Bolívar") by Cesar Portela, both in Caracas.8,9.

Fortunately, the Foundation Louis Vuitton has a coffee shop. There we'll go, even though we don't care much for its food, in order to not to see it anymore, and dream with the Bois de  Boulogne …as it was.


1.  "Toutes choses sont dites déjà / mais comme personne n'écoute, il faut toujours recommencer". In: André Gide,  Le Traité du Narcisse.

2. "Narcisse était parfaitement beau, – et c’est pourquoi il était chaste ; il dédaignait les Nymphes – parce qu’il était amoureux de lui-même. Aucun souffle ne troublait la source, où, tranquille et penché, tout le jour il contemplait son image…" In: A. Gide,  Op. Cit.

3. @RIBAJ: From boogie-woogie to ballroom: the changing style of Frank Gehry.

Ruth Lang. "Lord of the Dance", RIBAJournal: http://t.co/KQFd2AYPd1 http://t.co/Kh7ydJREqG

4. Paul Goldberger, "Gehry’s Paris Coup", Vanity Fair, September 2014: http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2014/09/frank-gehry-foundation-louis-vuitton-paris?mbid=social_retweet

5. RT @LVServices - via @HawthorneLAT

6.  In : Roland Barthes, "The Eiffel Tower", The Eiffel Tower and Other Mythologies.

7. Steven Erlanger ay Marie-Pia Gohin, "Tycoon’s Project: Nimby With a French Accent". In: Paris Journal, The New York Times, Abril 2014: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/08/world/europe/08paris.html?_r=0
8. "Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners unveil their first ever football stadium in Caracas, Venezuela", January 30, 2014, News, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners: http://www.rsh-p.com/news?siteID=1&navIDs=1,6&NID=239&addToPortfolio=true

9. OPPE, "Parque Bolivar tendrá una torre mirador",  Noticias CCS, CiudadCCS, January 26, 2014.


Published in: Opinion, @ElNacionalWeb, October, 27, 2014.

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