Subject: Parc de la Vilette

The biggest park of Paris is situated on the ancient site of the national meat market, between the Porte de Pantin and the Porte de la Vilette., at the confluent of the canal de l'Ourcq and the canal St. Denis. It includes the Cite des Sciences (porte de la Vilette) and the Cite de la Musique and Grande Halle (porte de Pantin), and the Zenith : vast modern ensemble, realized from 1984 to 1997 and, let's be honest, it is a success ! As well as for the contents of the citesas for the architecture of the buildings and the park itself. A reception pavilion, situated Porte de Pantin, eases the orientation of the visitors in this immense labyrinth.

A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY (yes , as always :-)) During a century the whole quarter lived at the rhythm of the slaughterhouses and cattle markets. Created by Haussman (him again !!) in 1867. The necessity of having slaughterhouses so near to Paris was dictated by the absence at that time of adequate refrigerating conditions. The abattoirs de la Vilette were during years an very important part of the Parisian folklore, with his actors, killers, sanguines, gut-spinners, belly-carvers etc...Proust came from time to time to dredge beautiful and strong butcher boys whom he always asked : Show me your hands ! fascinated as he was by these colossal hands who drenched in blood.Some sick mind, that artist !!..... At the end of the sixties, the abattoirs becoming antiquated, they had to modernize. The authorities came up with a megalomaniac project but the order to stop the works arrived when the buildings were almost finished. 300 billion francs (old ones) were engulfed in this mad adventure. The irony of the story is that the works were stopped for the contrary reasons that they started. : the evolution of refrigeration techniques and transports didn't need a slaughterhouse in Paris and it was more profit-earning to do it on the place of production. Result : it was one of the greatest financial scandals of the century. The access slopes for the cows were so steep that the poor animals couldn't climb them ! Happy consolation, the absurd structure houses today La Cite des Sciences et d'Industrie. The souvenir of the slaughterhouses still subsist with the Grande Halleand , around the park, the few restaurants specialized in good meat ( porte de Pantin) and shops still selling butcher's materials.

The CONSERVATOIRE DE LA MUSIQUE is characterized by her undulating roof of corrugated iron, her pillars piercing through iron VULVAS and the heavy waves it shows.Joyful architecture , as usual. Very serious teaching but also concerts, spectacles and public lectures.

La CITE DE LA MUSIQUE was realized by architect Christian de Portzamparc , a very original concept with the enormous cylinder with inclined dome of the concert hall, ready to accept 1200 melomanes rookies or confirmed. On the programs, classical and big shots, William Christie, John-Elliot-Gardiner or Pierre Boulez but also jazz (Max Roach, Cecil Taylor) or the chanson francaise. Also smaller concert halls are available. Let's emphasize the good acoustics of the halls, the quality of the concerts, the reasonable prices. In 1997, the MUSEE DE LA MUSIQUE opened as a modern concept centered on musical heritage. It's priceless collections imposed embracing ambitious policies of acquisition and restoration. With a surface in excess of over 3000 square meters, the halls of the permanent exhibition deploy 900 instruments, paintings and divers objects. Infrared headsets enable visitors to penetrate sound pockets, and to listen to explanations and extracts of important works played by the instrument displayed before their eyes as they tour the various levels..The visitors who penetrate the halls of the museum are at once stuck by the feeling of being elsewhere, in a concert hall, at a recital.... The museum is divided in 9 spaces or chapters setting the instruments within the historical, social and cultural contexts that saw their emergence. In each case, a common device makes it possible to literally see a given work. In the case of Monteverdi's Orfeo for instance, a model of the ducal palace of Mantova, where the work was created, shows the postionning of the orchestra. The museum shows superb Flemish and Italian harpsichords, archiluths, clavichords, cistres and other old and forgotten instruments as the mega double bass, 3 to 4m high ! And all this illustrated by the sound and musical excerpts of these instruments brought to you through your infrared ear sets. The excerpts of opera, concertos or jazz, soberly commented, charm your ear and educate your mind. You can't get enough! I spent there 3 h easily, without realizing time was going by . web site


Located in the slaughterhouses (never used nor even completed) i told you about in my previous post, the Cite proposes everybody to be aware of the stakes of scientific research., industrial investments and the progress of technology. Adrien Feinsilber, the architect, didn't haggle on the quality of materials or the amplitude of space? Fro a simple carcass, he made a futurist temple adapted to the man of the 21th century. A Titan work. To push back the enormous wall on the front Feinsilber engaged the French enterprise who worked on the Abou Simbel restoration-yard..... The Cite is Babel and the Great Pyramid at the same time. Look at the dimensions : 3 hectares on the ground, 270 m long, 110 wide, 47 m high, totaling 165.000 square meters ! On the entry hall measures 100 m long and 20 m wide. Above your heads :two enormous cupolas hanging on the roof collect the daylight overflowing the entry hall. This Cite is NOT A MUSEUM. Indeed, all exhibitions, from their presentation to their constituting elements, are prototypes. It is a creative and innovating spirit you find in all temporary exhibitions about actuality or other subject through their economic, social and artistic consequences.... Since the opening they ave treated subjects as : the plastic years , Blood and humanity, Measures and excesses etc.... Other particularity of this complex : it's a complete interactive place. Between the visitor and the object there is exchange and participation. You don't just look with a gloomy eye, you play piano on the keyboards of a computer, manipulating joy sticks, scrutinizing multicolored screens, playing to remake the world.; Shortly said, no need to go to the moon anymore, the moon is coming to you. Attention !! Fasten your seat belts. The great adventure of tomorrow is already stared. The slaughterhouse of yesterday became the Beaubourg of the mutants. Off that limit, you're on you own . Bon voyage !!

To visit the Cite you have a lot of different systems proposed to the visitor : -----Scientific animators help the public in her discovery of the Cite; her exhibitions and shows. ----- Audo-headsets lead you to 40 audio spots disseminated in the permanent exhibition (4 languages) with all sorts of comments. -----everything is also set up for handicapped visitors (orientation stripes glued to the floor, braille texts on different objects with schemes in relief.

You are free to visit so many different exhibitions that it is impossible for me to enumerate them all. Here a few. Explora: More than 20 different thematic exhibitions are displayed on the first and second floor , like for instance : ----the extreme environnements (don't miss the planetarium in this section) -----the world of Sounds and Mathematics : games of sensibilisation to maths and the physics of sound (test the level of finesse of your hearing, discover the spectre of your voice....) -----The environnement : discover and comprehend the climatology, the ecology and the great environmentalists challenges of this end of century. A meteorologic station is accessible to you, 52 tv screens managed by computer propose an immense electronic spectacle to make you understand what is an ecosystem with sonorized small scales of the tropical forrest, an African desert, cyclones,or ocean currents circulation. Also all the answers to your questions about air pollution, water pollution, toxic waste, acid rains, etc... ----- Man and Health : ----- Communication : essential in our end of century, impossible to summarize. Everything about artificial intelligence, informatica and his techniques, the multiple possibilities of language. thermography, infrared cameras, medical technologies are demonstrated. At the computer section, a flight simulator for great public, using synthesis images in real time, and clear explanation of the functioning of a computer.

On the ground floor, the Cite des enfants and the Techno -Cite On level -2 you are suddenly plunged at the bottom of the Mediterranean. On 250 sq.m. the Aquarium houses more than 2000 species of fish on three levels.

I could go on much longer with the GEODE(giant movie with an hemispheric screen) or CINAXE(mobile movie theater, set on paws, who moves in function of the movements proposed by the projected images.Quite impressive. Your need a solid stomach ! L'ARGONAUTE also (a real submarine)


This park is the work of Bernard Tschumi who had to compose with the presence of equipments and enormous edifices like the Cite des Sciences, le Zenith, Cite de la Musique and the Grande Halle. So he played modern by designing a perk in a revolutionary concept, a premiere ! First by dividing into squares the 35 hectares of imaginary lines, plan of a vast check pattern with squares of 120 m length, planting into each intersection folies , 24 cubic edifices of 10.8 meters intersection lines (aretes), more less eclate (exploded(?)), here added with a turret, there with an exterior staircase, the next one ripped up, hollow--- a wink to the Russian constructivists. Inside these folies you have a children nursery, a bar, diverse activities....To complete this geometry, 2 pedestrian axis east-wast and north-south cross the park, joining the Porte de la Vilette with the Porte de Pantin. Then 2 prairies, a vast rendez-vous for soccer players and triangle. Finally, to break the rigid pattern but always fantaisiste (whimsical), a curved blue road, crossing the Jardins du Miroirs, des Vents et des Dunes, de Brouillards, des Bambous, des Voltiges (look it up in your dictionary !) So many different atmospheres, often playful, with various tree species, adorned by water games, sculptures : it is the promenade cinematique. Because , without being aware of it, we are walking on a gigantic reel, spool, thrown by Tschumi , and that road that meanders in front of us , it's the sound track lining the succession of gardens.....giant images of a movie ! In the same park, from mid-July until end of August, the open air movie theater : rerun of classics. In the Grande Halle end June-begin August :La Vilette Jazz Festival.

Let's finish the Vilette area with the Grande Halle. The ancient halle aux boeufs (beef) is a good example of the 19th century architecture, Baltard style. Very well renovated, she was transformed into a modulative space for exhibitions, fairs and shows. Closed by glass walls, with a volume a geometrie variable (too difficult to translate) thanks to foot-bridges, compartments and mobile plateaus, she has an aerial and transparent architecture.