Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Paris Métro Line 6

Métro Line 6 starts and finishes north of the Seine but for most of its length loops through the outer southern arrondissements flying high above the boulevards with intermittent subterranean descents. From east to west it begins underground at L’Etoile, emerging into the daylight at Passy before launching itself across the river on the Pont Bir-Hakeim. It follows a green corridor on a viaduct through the 15th. and 14th. until descending to tunnel beneath the Montparnasse district after which a second elevated section extends to Place d’Italie where it dips below ground again. Another rooftop glide leads via Quai de la Gare, recrossing the river at Pont de Bercy whence the line runs underground to Nation with only a brief burst of daylight at Bel-Air. 

Westbound train entering Bir Hakeim station

Line 6 as seen from the top of Tour Montparnasse

Aerial view of Sèvres Lecourbe station

Platforms at Quai de la Gare

Bel-Air where the train briefly surfaces

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Postcard of the Day No. 73 – Sand bathing in Japan

For anyone in search of geo-thermal excitement, the city of Beppu in the southernmost Japanese region of Kyushu is the place to visit. Hot springs bubble out of the earth in multiple locations while hydrothermal vents emit plumes of super-heated water. On the beach this heated water seeps into the volcanic sands in which the locals are happy to be all but interred in order to enjoy the therapeutic benefits on offer. If these postcards are any guide this also offers an opportunity for some serious posing – bathers display an impressive nonchalance towards the rising tide outside their field of vision. Western participants describe the agonies to be endured when arms and hands are buried and bodily itching breaks out. None of the Japanese bathers visible here have been silly enough to place themselves in that position. 

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Advertising Cutaways

Cutaway drawings were valuable advertising tools in an age where dazzling the consumer with engineering complexity was an effective strategy. This glamorous Art Deco tableau from General Motors is publicising the Chicago Century of Progress exhibition in 1933-34. The GM pavilion included a functioning production line turning out Chevrolet saloons, a fact that apparently enraged Henry Ford when he heard about it – especially as Ford had chosen not to exhibit until year two (1934). By this time the two major car-makers had seen off or absorbed most of the minor players in the industry and the exhibition would become virtually a private battle-ground between GM and Ford. Below is a selection of advertising cutaways from the pages of mid-century magazines of varying degrees of complexity and ingenuity. Some of them are especially extreme in their disruption of topographical integrity and offer the diverting spectacle of human beings striding purposefully to the edge of a precipice or descending a disassembled staircase, oblivious to the hideous fates that await them. 

Friday, 6 March 2015

Lion de Belfort

The world population of carved lions must rival that of the living and breathing variety. An association with nature at its most powerful and ruthless is universally desired by princes and tyrants. Despite occupying the summit of the food chain, the lion is routinely identified with superhuman courage and stamina unlimited. When the French nation was absorbing the humiliation sustained during the comprehensive military defeat at the hands of the Prussians in 1870-71, the heroic resistance of the French troops and local volunteers at the Siege of Belfort was a rare instance of successful defiance and quickly became an essential national story. In the interest of salvaging some vestige of national pride the event was celebrated by commissioning a massive carved lion to adorn the rock-face outside the town of Belfort. The work was carried out by Frédéric Bartholdi and completed in 1880. Bartholdi was the foremost monumental sculptor of his age and would become world famous for his carving of the Statue of Liberty. A more modest version of the Lion of Belfort was installed in a major street intersection to the south of Montparnasse that takes its present name (Place Denfert-Rochereau) from the name of the French commanding officer at Belfort. As the access point for the Parisian Catacombs, Place Denfert-Rochereau was formerly known as Place d’Enfer. Thus it could be renamed with minimal disruption.