Is That Lavirotte or is That Door Just Happy to See Me?
January 4, 2010 MuseumChick
This week I decided to go on a scavenger hunt for the many buildings around Paris designed by the famous architect, Jules Lavirotte. Paris is home to many beautiful apartment buildings but Lavirotte's Art Nouveau designs are especially flamboyant and interesting. He is known for his elaborate iron balconies and doors and his reliefs of flowers, fruit and animals. You can also tell a Lavirotte building because he signs his name and date into the stone in a very obvious place.
I started at his most famous building on 29 Avenue Rapp, just a five minute walk from the Eiffel Tower and around the corner from my apartment. This façade (pictured to the right) won the award of the Concours de façades de la ville de Paris (Contest of façades of Paris) in 1901 and also created a controversy for its erotic design. Look at the door closely and you can see the phallic door design. Yes, that's a penis shaped design starting in the windows and carved into the wood of the door. Sculpted above the door is a woman's head, supposedly his wife, and to the sides are naked figures portraying Adam and Eve. You can see the use of animal imagery in the cattle heads under the center balcony and the lizard door handle. For this façade Lavirotte worked with sculptor Jean-Baptiste Larrive.
Lavirotte has four other buildings in the same area (all in the 7th arrondissement), so I walked to see the rest stopping first for a croissant of course! In 1899 he designed an apartment building around the corner at 3 Square Rapp and not far from that an apartment building on 12 Rue Sedillot that same year. Also close by is 151 Rue de Grenelle designed in 1900. These buildings were far less flamboyant than 29 Ave. Rapp but interesting to see his signature iron work in the balconies.
I then followed Rue de Grenelle across the park at Esplanade des Invalides to see an earlier design from 1898 (134 Rue de Grenelle). Crossing over Rue de Grenelle is a great view of the Hôtel des Invalides to the right and the Grand Palais to the left. It was a blustery day and there was a man flying a kite in front of the Air France building. I found 134 Rue de Grenelle just a few blocks later. This building was the least embellished design I saw and the iron work on the door was particularly interesting, done with large leaves above the door handles.
I then ventured over Pont Alexandre III into the 8th arrondissement to find more designs. The next, located just north of the Arc de Triomphe at 34 Avenue de Wagram was designed in 1904 and is now the Ceramic Hotel. On the front of the hotel is Lavirotte's enormous signature in the center of the building in lights. This building got its name because of its glazed earthenware façade that Lavirotte worked with ceramicist Alexandre Bigot to create.
My last stop was the most charming of Lavirotte's designs at 23 Avenue de Messine. This building was especially well done in white stone with reliefs of large trumpet flowers on vines above the main door and apple trees growing up the curving iron balconies. What a privilege to live in one of these creative buildings!
©2010 Danee Gilmartin All rights reserved