Paris walks: The path to modernity
A walk past some of Paris's best modernist architecture
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In stark contrast with its current rather snooty image, in the early 1900s the 16th arrondissement was a hotbed of avant-garde architecture and experimentation. This walk explores the artists' studios, apartment blocks and luxury villas that sprung up in a district that had only recently been incorporated into Paris proper.
Oliver Knight / Time Out
Start on Rue La Fontaine at the Castel Béranger, the Art Nouveau masterpiece of Hector Guimard – before dropping in for an early coffee break at the whimsically pretty Café Antoine at no.17, inserted into another Guimard building with clever wrap-around corners. Next admire the rampart tendrils sprouting from the wrought-iron fence of the Hôtel Mezzara at no.60, also designed by Guimard, for textile manufacturer Paul Mezzara. Further along at no.65, don't miss the polychrome-tiled 1926-28 artists' Studio Building by Modernist maverick Henri Sauvage.
Turning right into avenue Mozart, you'll find Guimard's former home at no.122, where he lived with his American artist wife Adeline Oppenheim. On the corner as you turn left into Rue Jasmin stands the imposing Beaux-Arts style apartment building – just the sort of neo-Renaissance frippery against which Guimard was rebelling.
Turn right into rue Henrich Heine, then left along Rue du Dr Blanche. Here you'll find the Fondation Le Corbusier, housed in two villas designed by the architect in 1923, which draws architectural pilgrims from the world over. The interior reveals his mastery of multiple viewpoints, fluidity of space and surprising use of colour.
Just off Rue du Dr Blanche, turning right into Rue Mallet-Stevens, stand six exclusive Cubist houses by Robert Mallet-Stevens, the glamorous architect and designer who best combined the elegance of Art Deco with the rigour of Modernism. Back at no.5 Rue du Dr Blanche are artists' studios by Pierre Patout, decorator of luxury cruise liner Normandie (Art Deco was also known as le style paquebot).
Head right down Rue de l'Assomption, then left onto Avenue Mozart and right onto Rue de Passy at Métro La Muette, with glitzy Art Deco brasserie La Rotonde on the corner. Next to Passy covered market, take Rue Duban, then Rue Singer towards the river onto Rue Raynouard. Nos.51-55 were designed by Auguste Perret in reinforced concrete, cunningly tinted golden yellow to match Paris stone. Best known for the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, this building contained apartments and Perret's architectural offices. Turn left on Rue Raynouard, past the Maison de Balzac, and cross Place du Costa Rica into Rue Benjamin-Franklin.
There's more Perret at no.25bis (a) where, behind the leaf-motif tiles, the 1904 building was one of the first to be constructed around a concrete frame. The revolutionary structure freed up the floor plan from load-bearing walls, creating the light, airy spaces associated with Modernism – as well as giving all the occupants a view of the Seine.
The walk ends at Trocadéro with the Palais de Chaillot, an example of gigantesque 1930s state classical revival. It was designed by Léon Azéma, Louis-Hippolyte Boileau and Jacques Carlu for the Exposition Universelle of 1937, with two curved wings, giant bronze sculptures by Henri Bouchard and Pommier and quotations by Paul Valéry. Pop into the Cité de l'Architecture, in the east wing, for a more thorough tour of French architectural history, from Romanesque... to the future.
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