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Parisian metro and Hector Guimard

2012-11-12

metro-paris-1.jpg"Art nouveau", or "New art" of the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century, which is well known through the rich stone decorations of Parisian buildings, through flowery decorations, is represented also by the green fantasy entrances to the Parisian metro entrances.

What makes Paris the most romantic city in the world is either undefinable, or has thousands of definitions and shapes. Eiffel Tower, Seine quays, coffee places, evenings at Montmartre, mornings in the bakeries, desserts after each meal, picnics in the parks and gardens, reading a book on the green chair in the Luxembourg garden, fast driving in the night Paris, accordeon inmetro-paris-2.jpg the metro, evening walk on the Saint-Germain boulevard and we could continue forever.

Green esthetically interesting "art nouveau" design entrances to the metro stations belong also to the romantic symbols of Paris. Tourists send the postcards to the whole world with the motives of the French baguette, Eiffel tower, cheese, croissants, or entrances to the metro stations which became famous thanks to the architect Hector Guimard, born in Lyon.

In 1900 he started with the metro entrance "Porte Dauphine" and then dozens of other stations followed: Palais-Royal-Musée du Louvre, Chatelet, Abbesses, Nation, Tuileries, Louvre Rivoli, Victor Hugo, Monceau, Réamur-Sébastopol, Sentier, Bastille, Raspail, Pasteur, Saint-Marcel, Saint-Michel, Cité.... Today Paris boasts with 86 Guimard metro stations entrances, which from 1978 are registered as historical sights of the national heritage.

Hector Guimard came to the project of the Parisian metro stations only by accmetro-paris-4.jpgident. During the tender in 1899, none of the submitted proposals was satisfactory and so they asked Hector Guimard to take up this task. Hector Guimard was already known thanks to the architecture of the Castel Béranger building in the street La Fontaine in Paris. As a building material Guimard chose iron alloy for the decorative entrance structure, often with the vegetal motives, stone for the basement and glass for covering the entrances.

Guimard’s metro entrances resemble to the frogs with big eyes with their mouth widely open. And who knows, maybe from this image comes the French term for the metro entrance, "bouches du métro", what literally means "mouth of metro" and the metaphor is really fitting. You get through these gates, which can be easily identified in the streets and boulevards, you get down by quite steep stairs and you find yourself in the undmetro-paris-5.jpgerground Paris, the complex railway system of which gets you to the point where you want to get.

A small miracle, commented by many tourists and Parisians, is that in spite of the fact that you know you are heading to Saint-Michel, Opera, or Montparnasse... after climbing up the stairs from the metro, the reality always gets you. Every time, even after the years, you stop breathing for a second when after long corridors and platforms in the metro, suddenly you are standing on the busy Saint-Michel boulevard, from one second to another there is an impressive statue od Saint Michel in front of you, at night you are touched by facing the high dark Montparnasse tower with plenty of lights irregularly spread on the fasade of the scyscraper.

The passage from the underground Paris to the streets of the city of lights has thanks to Guimard the transition point. The originality of its design Paris confirmed and ranked among the clichés of its charms.

Maria Dopjerova-Danthine, Paristep

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