An Afternoon in the Marais

Our third week of class began on a dreary note. Despite the fact that the weather forecast called for a warm day with no clouds in the sky, we left the hotel to a cold and rainy Paris. After class Monday morning, we all returned to our hotel to put on some more weather-appropriate clothes, so of course when we headed out that afternoon, the sun came out and it warmed up.

As a class on Monday we went to the Centre Georges Pompidou, also know as Beaubourg. The Beaubourg is the Parisian museum of modern art and the building suits the subject. The pipes and support beams of the building are all exterior, so it appears that it is under construction. The modern architecture stands out in the Marais, which is a traditional, pre-Haussmann era neighborhood. There has been discussion surrounding Beaubourg, with Baudrillard’s criticism being particularly bad. Baudrillard believes that the extremely modern design detracts from the contents and ruins the atmosphere of the neighborhood.

Our task this afternoon was to observe how history creates layers in a space. The Marais was originally an aristocratic neighborhood, but then became a slum once wealthier people began to move out of the city. Over time, the Marais has had large Jewish and large gay populations. Now the neighborhood is a major commercial area, with mostly small boutiques and cafes. The Marais can be compared to a palimpsest, which is a page from a manuscript or book where the text has been removed so that it can be used again. As each group has taken over the Marais, they have recreated the space to suit their needs. However, signs of previous inhabitants remain and can be seen throughout the neighborhood.

Many of us ended our day by exploring the Marais and shopping there. I could have spent hours and hours there; it seems like every turn brings a whole new street full of shops. I did not try the famous falafel yet, so I plan on returning to complete my experience at the Marais.

Map Marker

10 Rue du Renard, 75004 Paris, France
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