Research is a lot about looking for books, reading them, finding new books, reading them, etc. In June 2018, during my stay in Weimar, I had the feeling that I should try to go to new libraries, so I applied for a stay in Paris to visit the French National Library (Bibliotheque Nationale de France). My stay in the capital was planned for two weeks. On Monday, right after the opening, I decided to enter this huge building. The library, which opened in 1996 in the newest district of Paris, was designed by the architect Dominique Perrault, it is composed of four high tours, imitating open books, and a large two-floor platform, on the top of which people come after work to dance and chill.
With the help of the employees I find my bearings and after a few days I felt there as at my office. The library is divided in two floors, one is open to everyone and the second one to researchers. There hundreds of people are coming every day consulting books and working in a peaceful atmosphere. For me this stay was highly instructive, I could read new sources that I have been trying to find since the beginning of my research, and books I would never have thought of finding in Paris. French, English and even Slovak books are available on a multitude of topics. All these new sources will be very helpful in writing my next articles and conference papers. Unfortunately, two weeks would not be enough to have time for consulting all the wished books, but it was a great opportunity I had and a very good new impulse for my research.
I took the occasion of being in Paris to contact Laurent Coudroy de Lille, from our partner organisation Université Paris-Est – École D’Urbanisme de Paris, to discuss some points on my research and get some answers on my current questioning. We met at the School of Architecture of Paris-Belleville for a seminar organised within the project “Inventer le Grand Paris” (http://www.inventerlegrandparis.fr/). This project gathers different researchers from the field of urban planning, architecture, landscape architecture and history to discuss the origins and history of the Parisian agglomeration and its construction, questioning the different urban plans, stakeholders' role and growth. This seminar had a focus on plans, how to work with them and what they tell us. The presentations and discussions were very insightful also for my research and gave me a lot of inputs on how to work with these documents. It was also a great chance to meet researchers from different French universities and get to know how this kind of research seminar operates.
The next day, Laurent Coudroy de Lille suggested me visiting the museum of urban and social history of Suresnes (https://webmuseo.com/ws/musee-suresnes/app/report/index.html), their current exhibition was about the avant-garde architects Eugène Beaudouin et Marcel Lods. This duo of architects was one of the first using modern principles not only for the architectural and urban design of their realisations but also by using innovative techniques. The exhibition was tracing the history of their work and presenting their main projects. This high quality exhibition was very interesting for me regarding the history of modern architecture in Europe and its first use for housing construction.
The visit of the exhibition was followed by the visit of the open-air school of Suresnes lead by Morgane Menad. This school ordered by the mayor Henri Sellier and built in 1935 by Beaudouin and Lods on the top of Surenes’s hill, was an innovative school intended for children with fragile health coming from local labour families. Everything there was designed according to hygienist principles, all the buildings are thought to maximise sun shine effects, plus a specific education and child care were implemented. This high-quality environment had been used as a school until 1994, today in the buildings are trained people dedicated to accompanied people with disabilities and special educational needs. The buildings have been classified as a historical monument since 2002 but their future is uncertain based on the bad conditions of the buildings. During the visit I also met Charlotte Vorms, from our advisory board.
These two weeks were highly instructive, I went back to Weimar full of ideas and inspirations for my research. I would like to thank Laurent Coudroy de Lille for his time and help, and also Martin Pekár and Katka Hajduková who enabled me this opportunity. I had the chance to meet new people from my research field and exchange on my topic. It is also a great opportunity to know people from the French academia with whom I would like to work after my PhD. I truly hope I will have the opportunity to reiterate this experience soon again.
BnF, catalogue: http://catalogue.bnf.fr/index.do
Inventer le Grand Paris, http://www.inventerlegrandparis.fr/
Musée de Suresnes, https://webmuseo.com/ws/musee-suresnes/app/report/index.html
Musée de l’architecture et du patrimoine, https://www.citedelarchitecture.fr/fr/programme-culturel
Pavillon de l’arsenal, http://www.pavillon-arsenal.com/en/expositions/
Text and photo: Agnès Dudych