Inspiring Cities: From Paris with Love!

01/24/12    Sara McLean  |  specs+spaces Editor, Dunn-Edwards Corporation, Allied Member ASID, CMG

As the trade show Maison & Ob’jet begins, travels are taking designers from around the world back to the city of romance and lights. What is it about Paris that inspires and delights? 

It’s been a center of design innovation for centuries. Countless museums, including the Louvre, showcase an abundance of creative inspiration. Cafés and restaurants draw crowds into another era.

For those traveling this month to this wondrous city, here are some of my favorite places to put on your travel list as well as some new places to inspire. Let the adventure begin!

First Timer Musts
Louvre Museum: Originally built as a fortress in the late 12th Century, over the centuries turned into a palace and finally to one of the world’s largest museums and the most visited museum in the world and a historic monument. As a central landmark of Paris, it is located on the Right Bank of the River Seine.
Eiffel Tower (La Tour Eiffel or its nickname: La dame de fer, the iron lady): Built in 1889, it has become one of the most recognizable structures in the world and an icon of France. Named after its designer, Gustav Eiffel, the tower was built as the entrance arch to the 1889 World’s Fair.

Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile
: The world’s largest triumphal arch, centering a star-shaped configuration of 12 radiating avenues, forms an impressive artistic outlay along the Champs Elysées. Napoleon I ordered the construction in 1806, inspired by the ancient Roman patterns and dedicated to his imperial armies. Completed in 1833 and inaugurated by King Louis-Phillipe, the Arc has become a symbol of French patriotism.
Notre Dame Cathedral (Notre Dame de Paris, our lady of Paris): Situated on the Ile de Cité, construction on Notre Dame began in 1163 and is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It’s a celebration of both Early and High Gothic architecture that went through many construction phases, finally completing the original building in 1345.

Creative Inspiration
For those looking for inspiration outside the main tourist destinations, there are many smaller museums and art galleries to tour. Here are just a few.
Jeu de Paume: As a great escape from Impressionism and an alternative to the grand Parisian museums, this space is dedicated to photography and contemporary media. Previous exhibits have included works by Martin Parr and Richard Avedon.
Musée des Arts Décoratifs: Settled next to the Louvre and close to the Palais Royal shops, this museum holds exhibits showcasing specific time periods, themes and designers across the ages. It also promotes contemporary designer including fashion, textiles and advertising.
Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin: Perrotin champions French and international rising stars as well as established artists, including Sophie Calle and Takashi Murukami. Perrotin is credited with shaking up the very traditional French art world.
Centre Pompidou: Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers designed the building in the 1970s. Ride the escalators through the transparent plastic tubes to the top floor where vast city views await.

What is your favorite Paris must-see?
Images by Sara McLean

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