A 19th Century Proletarian Citadel in Paris (Part 2)


This article is a sequel of a first one written on January 7th 2012.

I would like today to follow yesterday’s assimilation of what I called a Proletarian Citadel within Paris to a solid mass incised by two streets and punched by a multitude of more or less narrow courtyards. While walking on the roof of this mass, one could imagine being actually on the top of a fantastic subterranean complex looking down to the dark depths of the multitude of the various sizes of holes that populate this ground. The Woman in the Dunes by Abe/Teshigahara (see previous article) comes to mind…
Once again, an effort of imagination needs to be made to envision this citadel at the end of the 19th century thus dramatizing a very probable appropriation of those spaces by their inhabitants. Laundry drying, well buckets bringing up goods coming from the depths, people conversing from one window to another, maybe even bridges who knows? We can even go further in this fictitious historic description by imagining artisans who audaciously added more or less reflecting pieces of bad metal on the courtyard walls to bring down more light, or others who organized networks of ropes used for a horizontal and vertical circulation of objects and bodies. Such stories are created by the successful balance between the uniformity of the block (it is an Hausmannian building after all !) and the multitude of local moments that trigger both a sense of community and a potential individual appropriation of those small localities. The courtyards, as narrow and dark as they are, constitute the key to such balance.

A third and last part will be published tomorrow or Friday.