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“The Paris “”Edifice Complex”””

The truth is that “an ‘Edifice Complex’ is a serious budget-busting illness that typically manifests itself on modern college and university campuses where an incoming university president will frantically and feverishly fall all over themselves to relentlessly badger wealthy donors and students for the purposes of leaving a mark with their name on it on the campus by constructing a new, over-priced, prime parking lot removing, ten-story structure post-modern eyesore whose purpose is solely to house administration, their support staff, and grace the cover of university brochures and websites.” (

Either way, there’s truth in the joke. And we’ve changed the definition:

“A Paris ‘Edifice Complex’ is a serious budget-busting illness that typically manifests itself with North American, British, Australian and New Zealand natives where an investment-minded traveler will frantically and feverishly fall all over themselves to badger real estate agents and property consultants for the purposes of purchasing, renovating, renting and occasionally enjoying themselves a ‘pied-à-terre’ that will fund its own mortgage and appreciate well over a period of years.”

I didn’t always have this complex. The blame goes to Paris.

First of all, there’s all this beautiful architecture on which to lay one’s eyes:

— the “petites maisons” of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries with their old oak beams, tomette tile floors and stone walls;

— the “hôtels particuliers” where the wealthy aristocrats once lived with an entourage of servants that have tall windows, large stone fireplaces and elegant courtyards;
— the “pierre de taille” stately stone buildings of beautifully symmetric design that reek of urbanity;
— the “Haussmannian” buildings that contributed prominently on the landscape of Paris as they line the boulevards like lace on a collar;
— the “Art Nouveau” buildings and structures (like the Métro entrances) by Hector Guimard and other architects;
— and then there are the contemporary buildings that remind us what age we’re really living in — such as the Pyramide du Louvre and the Centre Georges Pompidou, both of which remain controversial, but have made a strong irreversible mark on the landscape of Paris.

Venture inside, particularly to the private residences, and you discover that no two apartments are the same. When you come from the land of cookie-cutter residential sub-divisions and apartment complexes (there’s that word again — ‘complex’), where except for color and detail, the structures can be identical, the myriad of possible styles and configurations add infinitely distinctive differences to each humble abode will boggle your mind like a tangled ball of yarn.

We who have the “Edifice Complex” of the Paris kind, get hooked on visiting properties with the idea of finding the ‘perfect’ Paris apartment — never to discover it. There is no such thing as the perfect Paris apartment, from what we can determine, no matter how much money one has with which to buy it. Yet, each is perfect in its own way.

Take, for example, the “petites maisons.” It is likely impossible to squeeze an elevator in between the spiral of their narrow staircases, yet those at the top usually have the best views and light.

Consider the “hôtels particuliers.” They are the most aristocratic and light-filled with their tall ceilings and private courtyards, but may have difficult to add toilets and be a fortune to heat and maintain.

The “pierre de taille” buildings may have the least negative attributes to overcome, but can sometimes have the least interesting of architecture…potentially boring in style.

“Haussmannian” buildings, while stunning to look at and tell tales of “bourgeois” life, suffer from the noise of their grand boulevard locations, small rooms broken up by fireplaces that don’t flow well from one to another and often need massive renovation to move the kitchen from the back (where the servants were) to where it’s convenient for today’s lifestyle.

With very few on the landscape, the “Art Nouveau” buildings are hard to come by, and maintaining their elegant detail could become expensive for the residents.

And then there are the contemporary buildings, which allow for balconies, large windows with great views, elevators and new plumbing and electricity, but may have been built cheaply so as not to endure the test of time, nor have much character with which one can become attached.

“Mon dieu!” What a difficult choice one must make, not only between the architectural styles, but between the apartments themselves, each with entirely different floor plans, ceiling heights and decorative details. And thank goodness, one can change many of the imperfections to get close to finding and creating the perfect Paris apartment. “Presque tout est possible.”

It’s any wonder we’ve acquired the “Edifice Complex” — in this wonderland of architecture that spans generations, epochs and centuries of lifestyles…in Paris. Where else?

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris

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P.S. Nothing is more fun than finding the (close to) perfect Paris apartment…and those who have “Edifice Complex” of the Paris kind can be very good at it. If you’ve got the disease, too, and want to realize your dream, perhaps we can help you. For more information, visit French Property Consultation


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