Saturday, September 17, 2011

Surprising Beauty . . .

In my recent post on the Metz Pompidou Centre, I mentioned Mark Kingwell's meditations on cities and architecture, particularly his thoughts on thresholds. I suspect Kingwell would have something to say about the location of the Pompidou Centre just outside the city proper, a slightly unpleasant walk from the train station along a roadway, backs to the town. In this location, the building contrasts sharply with "the other" Pompidou Centre, audaciously planted in the heart of Paris' Beaubourg neighbourhood.

 This decision of the many bureaucracies involved in the Pompidou project to place the building at the outside margins of the city centre, and to favour car access over pedestrian comfort, may well have been the right decision for practical purposes. But it suggests that the project does not belongs to the people of Metz, and I would be curious to know how many of those who visit its exhibitions are local citizens.

Within the daily walking patterns of Metz citizenry are many wonderful examples of centuries and centuries worth of ambitious building, and I've already posted about some of these here, here, here, and here.  So many, apparently, that this ruin of a centuries-old church in the Old City (not far from the Opera House) has become a backdrop for children's play, a crumbling toward the earth even as the earth's vegetation reaches out to engulf it.

Even as I was appalled at the graffiti desecrating the ancient walls, at the banality of the surrounding buildings, soulless solutions to housing workers (almost as appalled, I suppose, as the teens whose smoking spot we had invaded), I was mesmerized by the inspirational strength of those arcing geometries, the apertures' ability to parse that light into spiritual food. The golden Jaumont stone in the afternoon's declining sun brought the building ruins into conversation with architecture all over the city.

Far from those sun's rays, those beautiful ruins, we're getting ready to head out into the fall rains of a Northwest Pacific island, driving down to Victoria today to visit my son and his girlfriend and celebrate some recent achievements (my son finished his B.Comm; his GF her sommelier certification). Hope you enjoyed the pretty pictures and excuse the paucity of words . . . I'd love to hear what you're up to or what you're remembering this Saturday morning.


  1. Even in decrepitude, its beauty is stunning. Have a wonderful day, and enjoy the celebrations!

  2. I love that image of the tree growing up and out of the stone structure.

    I am digging in the garden this weekend.

    Congratulations to your son on his academic achievement.
    It would be fun knowing a sommelier, I'd be asking for their recommendations of great affordable wines.

    Enjoy your time in Victoria, it's supposed to rain but there is lots to see and do so you will not be bothered too much about the forecasted showers.

  3. Mater, I enjoy your lovely writing so much!

    I love these words "I was mesmerized by the inspirational strength of those arcing geometries, the apertures' ability to parse that light into spiritual food" and will think of them the next I'm walking through church ruins, one of my favorite pastimes.

    I'll never forget visiting the ruins of the cathedral in St Andrews Scotland. The parents of Mary Queen of Scots were married there, and as my own forebears immigrated from Scotland, I felt the fullness of time, of continuity with history, standing there.

    Let's see, this weekend. I finally got a post up Thurs (am posting just once a month now) and am enjoying responding to comments, otherwise I'll be sewing and cooking.

    Have a beautiful weekend!

  4. I lived in Metz and I don't remember ever seeing the church in your photographs. Secret beauty.
    Congratulations to your son!

  5. Sharing your admiration for Kingwell, always tear through his articles. Slow cities, space (and funding) for embellishment and architecture (new and ancient),high-density living done right... all important questions.

  6. Sue: For me, that day, the decrepitude was part of the beauty. . Hostess: We had a lovely day, and yes, we're v. lucky to have an in-house expert who tips us to great, affordable wine buys.
    Susan: Thanks for adding more images to my mental catalogue of ruins. I wonder how that Scottish ruin might compare to Whitby -- I'll have to check it out on-line.
    I've read your post (didn't realize you're sticking at once a month; that's how you can manage to be so comprehensive!) but haven't yet got back to comment. Soon, I hope.
    Lesley: I can't find any reference to it by Googling. It was such a surprising find, especially the way it's so nonchalantly part of the surrounding urban-scape.
    Duchess: You'd probably enjoy his thoughtful book, Concrete Reveries, as well. And yes, absolutely, these are the questions to be thinking about. I suspect even more movement to cities as seniors age and find the suburbs not nearly as amenable when they've given up driving.

  7. Wow. That church is so beautiful, and so graceful one could almost imagine that glorious decrepitude was meant to be its natural state... Cathedral, deliberately deconstructed, an arch here, a pillar there. One could not hope for a better place to worship.

  8. Here's a photo that most reminds of me of being at St Andrews cathedral:

  9. I really rather love it when nature combines with architecture, I wish architects actually made more of an effort to do that when building rather than chopping and flattening the environment before building and then guess what? Planting again!
    That lack of respect is a problem in Cyprus too, where many of the monasteries lie derelict and misused despite the best efforts of the local councils to keep them as they were left by the Greeks. The very best is the monastery at Bellapais which marries the inside and out beautifully.

  10. Aleatha: I like that idea. Imagine an architectural project that scattered inspiring allusive fragments over an area and allowed nature to interact with them.
    Susan: Ah, wonderful! And yes, it reminds me very much of Whitby, from which you can also scoop up view of the sea and harbour.
    Alison: Even the living walls of some very contemporary buildings excite me for this combination of natural and built, although those are obviously very studied and managed. Here what seduces me is the way the building, even as it remembers its aspiration to the sky, is sinking back to earth, while the trees are growing through and eventually perhaps past it, toward the sky.
    And I'd love to see the Greek ruins in Cyprus. I'm going to see if I can find some images of Bellapais.


I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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