Vacation in Paris Blog

Now You See It...

Places To Visit - Posted on Dec 20,2021 by Hampton*Jan

It’s been a season of monumental ephemera in Paris – structures that were here, you blink, and then they weren’t.

In mid-July the delayed Tokyo Olympics kicked off the temporary building phase when the City of Paris covered the Trocadero fountains and turned the new man-made plateau into a “fan zone” par excellence. An enormous screen showed one Olympic event after another, and specialized areas gave fans an opportunity to try different sports.

It was on the temporary stage that the Paris’s mayor, Anne Hildago, officially welcomed the Olympic flag designating the City of Light as the home of the next summer Olympic Games.

The Paralympics moved into the Trocadero site when the Olympics came to a close and sports aficionados watched and cheered events and again got their personal “baptism” into other sports.

And then the Fan Zone, its screen, its playgrounds and bleachers vanished. Fountains once again shot water into the warm fall air.

But as the traditional canon-like fountains replaced sports lovers at Trocadero, a different team was swinging into action. This one set about creating yet another spectacular ephemeral structure. In the heart of Paris, at the Etoile roundabout, workers brought to life the designs and dreams of the artist Christo.

The Arc de Triomphe was draped and wrapped just as he had envisioned it and sketched it years earlier. For sixteen days in late September and early October, it shone in its silver-blue overcoat. But then, poof, it, too, was gone. The Arc again stood naked in all its stony glory.

Now the most ambitious ephemeral project of all has appeared at the bottom of the Champs-de-Mars. There, facing the Ecole Militaire is a huge temporary building designed by architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte. It is an echo of the Grand Palais, currently under restoration.

But there is ephemera and ephemera. Some ideas of temporary are a lot longer than others, and this Grand Palais Ephermal is built to last at least three years. In that time, it will be home to some of the events of the 2024 Summer Olympic Games and Paralympic Games in Paris. Judo and wrestling will be held there, as well as wheelchair rugby and para-judo.

The construction will not sit idle until then. Already the Paris Biennale of Arts and Antiques has been held there, and a full program of exhibitions, spectacles and conferences is set to keep the building in use right up to the minute the Olympic flame is lit.

It is an amazing piece of architecture – a pre-fab taken to the nth degree. The pieces such as the curved ribs of the building – all 44 of them - were assembled in advance and transported at the last minute to the site. Within the space of three months, the entire structure of 10,000 square meters was put together and readied for business. Built in the shape of a cross, the Grand Palais Ephemeral, on the ground level, looks like an encampment of giant covered wagons with its transparent skin mimicking the glass roof of the Grand Palais pulled over the arches.

Everything about the structure has been designed with ecology in mind. All the products and materials used have been secured from renewable sources. It is super-efficient in terms of energy, and every part is destined for reuse once the building is dismantled after the closing ceremonies of the Olympics. It is, according to the Union of National Museums which oversees the building, “totally in phase with the environmental imperatives of our age.”

In the meantime, the Grand Palais Ephemeral is already earning its laurels. It was built around the statue of Marechal Foch and is doing duty as the protective covering and workshop for the restoration of the monument honoring the World War I military leader. The Grand Palais Ephemeral makes a stunning bridge in time and space from the Tokyo Olympics to the Paris games of 2024, from one Olympiad to another. Even the gods of Mt. Olympus would find it a worthy residence secondaire.

Photo ©Anne Jea

Our latest guest bloggers - Don and Petie Kladstrup

Don and Petie Kladstrup are authors of two best-selling books, the first being Wine and War: the French, the Nazis and the Battle for France's Greatest Treasure, a best-seller that has been optioned for a motion picture. Their second book dealt with World War I: Champagne: How the World's Most Glamorous Wine Triumphed Over War and Hard Times. Both books have been translated into more than a dozen languages.

Check out their latest book - Champagne Charlie: the Frenchman Who Taught America to Love Champagne

Don and Petie are former journalists. Don was a award-winning foreign correspondent for CBS and ABC Television News. Petie worked for several mid-western newspapers before serving as an assistant to the American ambassador to UNESCO in Paris. They are the parents of two daughters and have lived in Paris since 1978, splitting their time between the city and their country home in the south of France.

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