Grande Arches at La Défense
After accidentally seeing a Sash! video a few years ago, I have always wanted to visit La Défense because it encapsulated the ultimate image of slick, polished, generic central business district façades (albeit in Europe) to me. Is it bad of me to say that my mental picture of "home" is culturally blank? Strangely enough, I am ever-so-slightly attracted to this "international central business district" look because it reminds me of Singapore.
The Steps to the Grande Arches
So, some weeks ago we went to visit La Défense, and I took a picture of the Grande Arches. When I went home, I oddly discovered that back in 2009, the pic I posted on my old blog was framed almost exactly the same as the first picture I had just taken. A mere coincidence, but I am amazed to have produced almost the same picture by chance. It just fit the mental image in my mind, which was mostly abetted by having seen the Sash! video one too many times.
The Sash! video itself feels very dated today and of course it is not quite so blue as it was in the video. Instead, La Défense is really kind of gray and airy. Its a big empty plaza of nothingness, yet on a Sunday it was full of families and couples and young people visiting the blindingly boring malls that lined its neverending concrete promenades.
The lyrics of a Sash! song were probably not written for any serious analysis but I have to say that I have always thought far too much about the "walls" mentioned in the lyrics and subsequently associated it with the architectures in the video. Because the thing that makes it really interesting for me is that while La Trec sings "tear down these walls", the actors are interweaving between glass walls and separated by glass boxes; glass walls being transparent, reflective, and seemingly fragile all at the same time... And let's just say that after watching the video one too many times in the past, I feverishly began to imagine the song as some paean to an "architectural experience". A human response, to architecture! And fittingly, the song even began with "I had a dream last night", and don't most cities begin with a dream?
We also spent a few hours searching for the bridge that La Trec stands and sings on, a search hampered by my mistaken notion that the bridge would be mostly blue with red edges (due to photographs and videos I had seen of it... dating from ten years ago). Naturally, it turned out to be neither of the above. Oh the perplexing looks we got as as we went around asking "DO YOU KNOW WHERE THE BIG BLUE GLASS BRIDGE IS? IT IS ALSO SLIGHTLY RED? NO? NEVER HEARD OF IT? BUT ITS REALLY FAMOUS? BY A JAPANESE ARCHITECT?"
Eventually we found out it was called the Japan Bridge (WHAT??), and if you come out of the metro facing the arches, its a long way off to the left from there, not the right where we walked for a long while searching for it.
Here are a whole lot of other images of the area which is strikingly empty in many parts. I think I have always loved it when I go to a part of a city that is usually busy during the weekdays, or basically used for some functional purpose, and to explore it when it is empty on the offdays. I find it strange that huge areas of cities are not used for the better part of the day and have such segregated spheres of use. Sometimes, after thinking about it too long, the notion of work in the sense that it has been structured today (physically and timewise) is even strange. Why do people go to "work" like this? Why are places like La Defense built on the end of the metro line to create a whole dedicated "working" zone where nothing but "work" and business occurs?
I'm amazed at how crisp and almost unreal my photos turned out.
And for the curious and the masochists... here is that old Sash! video set against the backdrop of La Défense: