Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Grand Department Stores in Paris

Paris's big department stores have buildings that make clear their grandeur. Last weekend Susie and I gawked at a couple of them.

On the right bank, the Galeries Lafayette knocks you back with opulence. The building, in a neo-Byzantine style with a 100-foot-high atrium topped by a glass dome, was inaugurated in 1912.

It would be difficult to make this building any more ornate. Every surface is decorated, every border sculpted.

On the left bank, Le Bon Marché presents a nearly comleted contrast of styles. Even though it was built 25 years before the Galeries Lafayette, its design is, to contemporary eyes, much more modern. The building, designed by Louis Charles Boileau and Gustave Eiffel, was completed in 1887.

Although the overall effect is clean, Le Bon Marché includes ornamental details that modern designs would likely skip, such as this elaborate overhead cover for a large ventilator.

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