Saturday, October 11, 2008

La Tour Montparnasse

I may be one of the few people (there must be more) who really like this building. Most people I encounter can't stand it. They say it doesn't fit, that it's out of scale, out of context, or that it's just plain ugly. Everyone is entitled their opinions. You can read what I wrote about it a couple years ago here.

Looking up the rue de Rennes toward the Montparnasse tower.

I think that we tend to give the context argument too much weight when considering or criticizing architecture. If objections over context and "fitting in" swayed historical builders, we might never have seen those magnificent domed churches and towering gothic cathedrals in the midst of medieval towns and their comparatively small buildings.

Paris certainly would not look like it does today; most of the city's grand stone buildings were erected in the nineteenth century and were, at the time, totally out of scale with the old stuff they eventually crowded out. But we couldn't think of Paris without them. In my opinion, counterpoint, renewal, and juxtaposition of architectural styles are fundamental elements of a successful, and beautiful, city. Ok, rant over.

When I lived in Paris in 1982, my third floor apartment in the 10th arrondissement had a view across town toward the Tour Montparnasse. I saw the tower in all kinds of light, and on certain days at sunrise the whole tower could look like a column of flame in the distance. It was very dramatic.

This picture was much to dark as a slide. Once again, Photoshop comes to the rescue, allowing me to lighten up the dark parts and tone down the bright parts, bringing a bit more balance to the shot.

This is part of a series of color slides that I took in Paris in the late 1980s. They are images that I didn't like much back then for one reason or another. I'm using Photoshop to try to give them a new life.


  1. I love all the lines in this photo... such a beautiful shot and great composition! I love it

  2. and the view from the top ain't bad either

  3. Hmm...this photo doesn't sell it to me. The different light and different crop of the photo in the post you link to is getting there though. This building reminds me of the Gherkin in London. Up close it is badly proportioned in itself, and in terms of its surroundings, but seen at a distance from outside Stepney Green Underground Station (where it appears as a punctuation point at the end of the Mile End Road) or from the train at Limehouse, where you see it in relationship with nearby large buildings, I have a certain fondness for it. After all, it is so absurdly phallic, how can you not be amused?

    The Lloyds building, at the other end of the street to the Gherkin, on the other hand, is an absolute joy close up but compromised by its mostly formulaic baroque revival neighbours, which crowd around it and prevent the view of this marvellously creative building from any distance at all, which is a shame.

  4. justin, thanks!

    melinda, that's for sure, and I've never had to wait in line.

    susan, I don't know London very well at all, but I have seen the gherkin from a distance (and in photos) and think it's very interesting. I'd love to see it up close.

  5. I get to see the Gherkin every working day – first from the train, then walking past it on my way to my office (it looms over the courtyard my office building is situated on). Every day as I leave the office there is always one or two tourists photographing the building. Both the restaurant and the café/patisserie have excellent reputations, but somehow I have never got round to going to either. Perhaps if you are in London sometime we should test them out.

  6. Hi just passing by to say i enjoyed your post about the montparnasse tower,
    last time i was there i stayed in a Paris apartment rental in the 14eme, Montparnasse, very near the tower. The apt is managed privately by his owner. the apartment is really cosy, very clean and the location is excellent: 14th arronsisement in the chic left bank but a bit awary from the mad tourist crowd, still very easy to walk to some of the main sights and the area is superb, packed with street markets, resto and brasseries. I highly recommend



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