January 24, 2020

It's just an illusion...

An invitation to the Musée de l'Illusion popped up on my facebook feed... that's weird I have not heard of this museum before. A bit of googling confirms it has opened just one month ago. There is no excuse I gather my girlfriends and we are off to explore.

Turns out it is not really a museum rather a few rooms scattered over two floors hidden under a scaffolding in the 1st arrondissement. Our first impression is a rather spartan space but as we go along with the interactive experiences and shoot the photos we are invited to take from a specific place in each section the fun gets better and better.

The parcours exercised our little grey cells by providing a scientific and rational explanation for what our eyes could neither explain nor understand. Every corner of the museum taught us extraordinary things about our vision, our perception and the functioning of our intellect. The goal was to discover why our eyes perceive things that are incomprehensible to our brain.

My first is surreal, my second is as educational as it is playful and my third is unique curiosity. Who am I?..... An optical illusion!

Of the three of us, I was the only one brave enough to jump into an illusion created by the Vortex Tunnel that at first was fun but then drove me slightly crazy as I made my way forward stepping through what seemed a slowly rotating cylinder. What began as a light-headed sensation turned into a real struggle – and yet the surface was completely stable and flat!

For over an hour our reliance on senses were tricked and as we entered the fascinating world of illusions we were confused and amazed... and ultimately also educated!

It's all about deceiving your eyes and entertaining the mind! Definitely worth a try but be sure to visit at a time without too many people, and take your camera with you.

Having fun in the smart playroom

Vortex Tunnel: more challenging than I thought!!!

Can you see him?

Feeling slightly sick looking down into the void.

It's all about illusions!

January 19, 2020

The cultural diversity of an insect hotel

On my mornings runs I have noticed more and more of these insect hotels popping up in France and in Switzerland. 

If you are a gardener by hobby and a nature enthusiast by heart, chances are that you are already familiar with the concept of insect hotels. Offering a sanctuary to beneficial insects, especially pollinators, they are considered to be the urban solution to declining population of beneficial insects in human environments due to habitat loss, pollution and abuse of pesticides.

Looking at them closer, I could not resist noticing the difference between the Swiss and the French construction depicted via an insect hotel... and then you wonder why we keep on having water infiltrations in our Parisian flat?!? 

Mind you, I ponder who's inhabitants are happier? The orderly, well-protected, insulated Swiss or the rather messy, disengaged, relentless French?

January 18, 2020

Charlotte Perriand, pioneer of modernity

When your BFF comes to town the best place to take her is the Fondation Louis Vuitton. It is an outing that combines trendiness, beauty, art, culture, nature and food all in one!

Little did I know about Charlotte Perriand, a French architect and designer, but that wouldn't really matter because the magnificent building is so impressive whatever is inside will be just fine.

Boy was I in for a surprise... who knew that this multitalented artist was Le Corbusier's sidekick... or shall I say his famous chair was actually designed by a woman named Charlotte Perriand? Her work aimed to create functional living spaces in the belief that better design helps in creating a better society. Her approach to design included taking in the site and appreciating it for what it was.

Charlotte Perriand wanted to work for Le Corbusier and pursue serial production and low-cost housing. She was inspired by Le Corbusier's books, because she thought his writings that criticized the decorative arts aligned with the way she designed. When she applied to work at Le Corbusier's studio in October 1927, she was famously rejected with the reply "We don't embroider cushions here." A month later, Le Corbusier came across her work while visiting the Salon d'Automne, which convinced him to offer her a job in furniture design.

At Le Corbusier's studio, she was in charge of their interiors work and promoting their designs through a series of exhibitions. Perriand described the work as being highly collaborative between Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret, and herself; they were "three fingers on one hand."

I spent three hours strolling in and out of gallery halls exploring the links between art, architecture and design by a pioneer of modernity, a leading figure of the twentieth century design, who contributed to the definition of a new art de vivre.

Charlotte Perriand truly invented a New World as the exhibition's title promised. It was a pleasure to be taken on the journey of her long, productive, fascinating life.

Recognise the chair and the chaise-longue in front of Fernand Leger's painting?

Charlotte adored Isamu Noguchi's lanterns

A miniature model of Charlotte's world

Snapshot of the past

Avangarde, timeless and so up-to-date

A page out of Charlotte Perriand's scrapbook

The embodiment of Charlotte's vision of a “synthesis of the arts”

Perfect layout for today's chambre de bonne on the 6th floor!

How small, simple and functional can a kitchen be?

My absolute favourite: "Le refuge tonneau" is a
transportable mountain igloo with the interior space of 8m2 built in 1938!
The artist's concepts were in high demand and she worked on many projects from ski resorts to student housing.

Charlotte Perriand put into practice the concept of prefabrication where all components were prefabricated and organized around a tubular steel frame. 
The refuge camp for 6 people had everything you needed to stay toasty on a cold winter night.

Charlotte Perriand looks like quite a character! 

In 1940 the artist sails for Japan where she has been appointed as an advisor on industrial design to the Ministry of Trade and Industry. The teahouse she designed in 1993 in the garden of UNESCO’s global headquarters in Paris, is an affectionate homage to the ones she had visited in Japan.

"La maison au bord de l'eau" never saw physical execution un til the LV foundation decided to give it a go. The plans for "the house by the water" were first drafted over eighty years ago, in 1934.

The inside living space... 

... and the original sketch by Charlotte Perriand.

January 17, 2020

Frank Gehry's dream

Enough of Napoli for now... even though I cannot get enough of taking pictures of one the most densely populated cities in Europe.

Not one to be stopped by the current transportation strike that has been plaguing Paris for the past 44 days, I hopped on an electrical scooter and headed for the Foundation Louis Vuitton located on the west side of Paris. Much to my surprise my trottinette died on me as soon as I hit the famous Bois de Boulogne. Who knew these things not only had geo-locators but also remote control mechanisms to block them?

Rather disappointed I walked through the woods to reach the magnificent museum sponsored by the luxury group LVMH to promote art and culture.

From an initial sketch drawn on a paper napkin to the transparent cloud sitting at the edge of the Jardin d'Acclimatation in the Bois de Boulogne, Frank Gehry constantly sought to "design, in Paris, a magnificent vessel symbolising the cultural calling of France".

In a unique, emblematic and bold building with 3,600 panels of glass curved to the nearest millimetre forming the Fondation's twelve sails and 19,000 panels of Ductal (fibre-reinforced concrete), each one unique, that give the iceberg its immaculate whiteness, Frank Gehry pushed back the boundaries of conventional architecture.

It took 13 years from Bernard Arnault's meeting with Frank Gehry after visiting the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao to the grand opening in 2014 but Paris now has a first-class flagship with a surface area of 11,000 m². 

But beware, the Bourse de Commerce, a private museum for rival luxury goods billionaire François Pinault's collection, is scheduled to open in June 2020.

All you need is a dream...

A vision appears through the trees...

... it's Frank Gehry's white sailboat.

A front view of the Louis Vuitton Foundation

It reflects pure luxury on every level 

Even on a dreary day the view onto Le Jardin d'Acclimatation and La Defense is spectacular.

The Eiffel Tower on the horizon.

My favourite spots are the many terrasses on different levels.

Mirror, mirror on the wall...

January 12, 2020

Facades of Napoli

Napoli is a charming city, full of evidenced from its magnificent past: conflicting souls coexist in this place, which is rich in ancient traditions and legends that fascinate. Napoli's centro storico (historic centre) is a Unesco World Heritage Site and I am spoilt of choice among its historical and architectural beauties, its squares and churches, its museums and theaters... but what fascinates me most are the scenes of everyday Neapolitan life.

Napoli's urban sprawl can feel anarchic, tattered and unloved. But look beyond the grime, graffiti and occasional gruffness and you'll uncover a city of breathtaking frescoes, sculptures and panoramas, of unexpected elegance, of spontaneous conversations and profound humanity.

The tradition of "suspended coffee" in Napoli

Everybody knows that coffee is one of the most popular elements of the Neapolitan tradition, but it is not commonly known that there is a little story behind it, better known as the “suspended coffee”.

The usage of the “suspended coffee” started during the Second World War, when, in very hard times, people used to pay two cups of coffee: one for themselves and the other for someone who couldn’t  afford it.

The philosopher Luciano De Crescenzo, described "il caffè sospeso” as follows:
When someone is happy in Naples, instead of paying a cup of coffee for himself, he just pays another one for someone else; it’s like offering a cup of coffee to the rest of the world.”

Buona domenica a tutti!

January 11, 2020

Colourful Napoli

One of Napoli's most famous songwriters Pino Daniele wrote a song called "Napule È Mille Culure" which translates into "Napoli Is A Thousand Colours" a loving tribute to the city's fascinating contradictions.

Napoli is a city in constant motion, which surprises and amazes me every time. It is a city that smells of salt. It is chaotic and colourful. It is a criss cross of pedestrian alleys with cars and motorbikes speeding through them and old ladies sitting in front of their door step observing and commenting. 

It is about the art of improvisation in order to survive while enjoying the good things life has to offer. Naples is a city that enchants, that surprises for its mysticism and its enigmas. It is history and art, but it is also a state of mind that envelops you and accompanies you through its streets and neighborhoods.

Napoli's biggest asset, however, is its people's kindness. Luckily I am married to a lovely Napolitano which means we get to spend Christmas with "la famiglia" (it's a big one) and I can take photographs to my heart's delight... in a thousand different colours!

Forza Napoli... where football is religion!

Food in Napoli is another very serious matter...

... as is meeting up with your 500 best friends for a pre-Christmas aperò!

Definitely on my shopping list!

Gli struffoli... a Neapolitan Christmas tradition made of deep fried dough balls bathed in a syrup of of honey and citrus rinds and decorated with coloured sprinkles and candied fruit. 
It's just not Christmas in Naples without it. 

Yeah, the metro is not on strike!

I have a soft spot for kitchy souvenirs

A typical Neapolitan scene

Diego is still omnipresent and widely adored!

Time for lunch in the sun... tutto azzuro!

Napule è ’nu paese curioso
è ’nu teatro antico, sempre apierto. 
Ce nasce gente ca senza cuncierto
scenne p’ ’e strate e sape recità.
Nunn’è c’ ’o ffanno apposta; ma pe’ lloro
‘o panurama è ‘na scenografia,
‘o popolo è ’na bella cumpagnia, 
l’elettricista è Dio ch’ ’e fa campà.
Ognuno fa na parte na macchietta
se sceglie o tip o n’omm a truccatura
L’intercalare, a camminatura 
pe fa successo e pe se fa guarda. 
(Eduardo De Filippo)

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