The first stop of the day had us emerging from the complex underground metro system at the doorstep of the Louvre. Surrounded by the once fortress built between 1190 and 1202 we admired the clear glass pyramids designed by I.M. Pei. It was a cloudy day with scattered rain showers, but it left the pyramids and fountains looking clean and refreshing. I sat next to the largest pyramid and let the soothing rush of water from the fountains deafen and drown out the crowd, allowing me to get lost in the unabashed display of tessellated glass before me.
From the outside, the smooth, flat glass walls reflected the detailed sculptures on the surrounding older buildings. The clear water and the equally clear structures mesmerized me. The triangular pools were situated in such a way they could have been the pyramid, if unfolded. Together, the water and the glass provided different perspectives for looking at the surrounding world – the pyramid reflected the buildings, and the water reflected the cloudy sky, all the while, having a dual task of transparency and clarity.
The supporting cable network visible through the clear glass panels added an air of lightness and delicacy to the pyramids. At first glance, this elegance provided juxtaposition with the heavy surrounding buildings. Upon further reflection, the materials and shapes chosen seemed to fit perfectly with the older fortress architecture. The modern design captured the underappreciated strength of water – a virtually incompressible fluid, and of the pyramid shape, and used it to expose and imitate the obvious strength of the surrounding buildings.
Later in the day we paused to watch France in the World Cup held in a square near the Notre Dame. We then admired the Notre Dame to the sounds from its hauntingly beautiful bells; wondered at the love stories hidden behind the locks anchored to the Pont de l’Archevêché; and willfully lost ourselves in the romantic world of books at Shakespeare and Company. At this magical bookstore, we climbed the staircase whose steps had been worn in the center to the original wood from countless book lovers. The bookstore was built from walls and archways of stories, supported by lyrical literary tales, and decorated with the colorful words from their creative authors. It was unconventional structural purity, the perfect example of something built with imagination.