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Multi-Purpose, Multi-Talented…”Polyvalent”

Spring is springing early…or at least we hope so. Sunday was as sunny, warm and glorious day as is possible in the usually Gray Paree. Plans to trim back the geraniums, give them a good watering and fertilizing is on the agenda a good two weeks earlier than normal. Is this a sign of global warming? Could be.

The new Carreau du Temple - Paris, FranceThe new Carreau du TempleFor years the Carreau du Temple has been a source of wonder — the 19th-century iron and glass covered market that took up a city block next to the Mairie of the 3rd Arrondissement used as a kind of “pop-up” shop for resellers of close-out garments. From the moment moving into the neighborhood, it was easy to predict that this little corner of Le Marais would have huge property potential…if the historic building were to be rejuvenated. And it was.

The building sits on what once was the enclosed area of the Knights Templar, where the Royal Family was held imprisoned during the French Revolution. A small wooden structure was built there in 1811 then replaced by the iron structure in 1863. In 2004 there was an election held by the Mairie to determine what would become of the facility, opening the voting to residents, not just citizens. That means even foreigners like me, but with residency status, were able to have a say. It was a momentous occasion in Paris history.

The residents decided to renovate it into a “multi-purpose” (or “polyvalent” in French) facility. Often with “multi-purpose” ideas comes the threat that it might be trying too hard to ‘become all things to all people’ and end up ‘being nothing to nobody.’ I was worried.

The neighborhood residents watched the renovation take place over the last four years as the Mairie posted photos on the outside fencing of the Mairie throughout the process. It took shape and color and started to look like real progress. Then the inauguration was announced for Saturday, February 22nd with events taking place all throughout the day.

The metal is no longer blue — it’s Paris gray, of course. The interior surfaces are of wood to add a warm and welcoming tone — short strips of different shades that are fused and again in lines making more stripes. The main hall is 1,800 square meters. A large window is about eight meters high. It will hold 3,330 people and in total, there are 6,500 square meters spread over the two levels.

Plans for the facility include local community events, sports events, art shows and art fairs, fashion shows, concerts, exhibitions, meetings, classes and much more. A class in Flamenco dance was taking place while the community was paying it a visit Saturday afternoon. No question that all the property surrounding the Carreau du Temple is sure to become even more valuable now that it’s bright and shiny and new and attracting the people and the media.  

View from the Centre Pompidou - Paris, FranceView from the Centre PompidouSunday afternoon as the sun was shining brightly, the security line to enter the Centre Pompidou to see the Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibit was down to the back and around the block. If you happen to be going to the Restaurant Georges at the top floor where the special exhibits are shown, you can bypass the long security line by using the elevator to the left of the entry. And even if you’re not actually going to the restaurant, the guard asks for no proof! It lets you off on the first floor, so you may have to descend to buy your ticket before taking the caterpillar-like escalators up, but it’s a short cut for those who dare! (The devil makes me do it.)

Special exhibit Henri Cartier-Bresson Retrospective at Centre PompidouThe Henri Cartier-Bresson Retrospective is on till June 9th, but don’t dally to get there and be prepared to stay a while. There are more than 500 photos, drawings, paintings, films and documents to take in — and that’s more than the average brain can handle! It’s the first in Europe since his death (August 3, 2004) highlighting over 70 years of work that honors one of the world’s most respected photographers.

Photo by Henri Cartier-BressonPhoto by Henri Cartier-BressonAs a long-time aficionado of photography, it was surprising to see so many images already well imprinted on my brain, but there were so many still yet to discover. The images themselves are amazing examples of being ‘in the right place at the right time’ with an expert eye for subject and composition, but the stories they tell of our history over this past century is poignant — through World War II, through the student uprisings in France in 1968, through times of poverty and those of prosperity. Versatile, multi-talented and seemingly everywhere news was breaking, Cartier-Bresson was another one of France’s “polyvalent.”

You will want to see the exhibition many times in order to absorb it all. Either way, it will make an impression on all those who experience it.

By the time you read this, I’ll be landing in the freezing Big Apple for a few days with my daughter and friends, so I’ll be writing from there on Wednesday…and learning what it’s like to be a Francophile living in New York (all of my friends there are!).

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds - The Adrian Leeds Group LLCAdrian Leeds

Editor, Parler Paris & Director of The Adrian Leeds Group, LLC

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