A surprising find during my recent visit to Paris is the vast Cite de l'architecture et du patrimoine (City of Architecture and Heritage) museum which is housed in a wing of the Palais Chaillot in the Trocadero area.
There were three distinct galleries. The first one we experienced is a shrine to 12 centuries of France’s architecture — with exhibitions that range from the reproduction of a stained-glass window in the gothic cathedral at Chartres. The soaring, glass-roofed main gallery gave light and airiness to the plaster-cast reproductions of the most important examples of medieval, Gothic and Renaissance church architecture: cathedral facades, gargoyles, pillars, statues, crypts. Also featured are scale models of churches and various buildings of the period. I love that they used red walls as the backdrop since they showcased the objects so that you can appreciate them better than in situ.
Actual size plaster cast of one of the portals at the Notre Dame Cathedral Paris
We took the elevator to the upper level and found another gallery devoted to modern architecture, with maquettes from the mid-19th through the 21st centuries, including London's Crystal Palace and one of Renzo Piano’s 1998 cultural center in the French territory of New Caledonia in the South Pacific. In this gallery, you can see the plans for the Eiffel Tower and then look out the window to a great view of one of the most famous architectural symbols of Paris.
View of Eiffel Tower from the Modern Architecture Gallery
We were about to leave and decided to stop by the toilette first. As we walked out of the toilette, I spotted a narrow corridor I thought we had not been in before. It opened up into another gallery of paintings, niches, domes and frescoes from the 12th to 16th centuries that have been faithfully reproduced. Here we experienced what it felt like to be inside the actual places these works in this gallery realistically replicated and we were literally lost in the many nooks and crannies, so much so that the guards had to come and find us at closing time.
Given my love affair with Medieval and Renaissance art and with architecture, in general, this museum was a feast for my eyes, I wish we had more time to explore. I'm glad my friend, Yogi took me there. I found so much inspiration in this place. It is a must see for all students and admirers of architecture.