Rockport Lodge + Mount Druid Causeway Coast Antrim

A Penchant for the Peculiar

Ballintoy Beach Causeway Coast © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

There are two distinguished Georgian houses along the Causeway Coast with unusual fenestration. Rockport Lodge just beyond Cushendun appears to have missing windows on the canted flanks of its outer bay windows on the south elevation. Mount Druid high above Ballintoy appears to have the middle windows missing in its two bay windows on the north elevation. Forget the wild weather resistance of yore: a modern sensibility would be to capture from all angles such a view sweeping down to the incredibly untouched Ballintoy Harbour. Mount Druid’s mildly idiosyncratic face to the world (the entrance front is actually the more regular five bay south elevation looking into the hill) is austere – an attribute noted by writers as being highly suitable to this bare landscape. White painted walls against the dark hill add to the stark grandeur of Mount Druid. Waves lap up to the white painted walls of Rockport Lodge. It too has a more conventional entrance front, four bays facing westwards inland.

Ballintoy County Antrim © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Sir Charles Brett includes both houses in Buildings of County Antrim. On Rockport Lodge, the once Belfast based full time solicitor part time architectural writer records, “According to Boyle, in 1835, the house ‘the summer residence of Major General O’Neill is a modern two storey edifice, and very commodious’. It was valued on 9 August 1834 at £20.13.0 of which £2 was added ‘for vicinity to sea, being a good situation for sea bathing’… soon after the name of General O’Neill was struck out, and that of Matilda Kearns substituted. Her name in turn was struck out in 1868, when Nicholas Crommelin moved here from The Caves, the house being valued then at £38.”

Ballintoy Harbour © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Ballintoy Harbour Causeway Coast © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Rockport Lodge Cushendun © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Five Big Houses of Cushendun is a smaller book written by Sir Charles Brett. It includes Rockport Lodge: “The handsome white painted house, hugging the shoreline, can be dated with some accuracy to 1813. It does not appear on William Martin’s conscientiously detailed map of 1811 to 1812; but Ann Plumptre, who was here in the summer of 1814, wrote that Cushendun ‘is an excellent part of the country for game; on which account Lord O’Neill, the proprietor of Shane’s Castle’ [in fact, his younger brother] ‘has built a little shooting box very near the shore, whither in the season he often comes to shoot’. It stands between Castle Carra and the sea. The south front facing across the broad curve to the village, consists of three canted bays, set in a zigzag under the wide eaves, leaving triangular recesses in between: five 16 pane windows on the ground floor; three more, and two oculi, in the upper floor. The entrance front, of four bays, has wide Georgian glazed windows and a pleasing and unusual geometrical glazing pattern in the recessed porch.”

Rockport Lodge Cushendun Entrance © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The entry for Mount Druid in Buildings of County Antrim reads, “A remarkable house, on an extraordinarily prominent (and exposed) hillside, looking out due north across the North Channel to the cliffs of Oa on Islay. The house is of two storeys, on a generous basement, with tiny attic windows in the gables; in principle, seven bays wide, with generous canted bays facing north – but the central face of each bay is blank – as Girvan says, ‘giving a very bleak effect, not inappropriate to the inhospitable position.’ Between the bays, a tall round headed window lights the upper part of the staircase, an oculus above and below. The remaining windows are 15 pane Georgian glazed. There are six chimneypots on each stack; the doorcase in the square porch in the entrance front facing south is modern.”

Mount Druid Ballintoy © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

There’s more: “The vestry minute book for the parish contains the following uncommonly useful entry: ‘There was 40 acres granted by Alexander Thomas Stewart Esq of Acton to Reverend Robert Traill and his successors, Rectors of Ballintoy, in perpetuity, for a glebe, in the townland of Magherabuy on the ninth of August 1788. Rent £25.5.0. In May 1789 Mr Traill began to build a Glebe House and got possession of it on the 14th November 1791 – changing the name of the place from Magherabuy to Mount Druid, on account of the Druid’s Temple now standing on the Glebe.’ Unfortunately, despite this wealth of documentation, there is nothing to say what builder, mason, carpenter or architect was involved: no payments appear in the vestry book since Mr Traill evidently paid for the house out of his own pocket.” The similarities between the two houses may not be entirely coincidental. Charlie wondered if  Rockport Lodge could be the work of the same architect or skilled builder as Mount Druid?

Mount Druid Ballintoy Entrance © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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The Bank House + Marine Parade Whitehead Antrim

Unprovincial Province

Antrim Coast Irish Sea © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Whitehead is off the main road from somewhere to anywhere. You have to choose to visit the town rather than drive through it. This quality has helped preserve it as an untarnished Victorian and Edwardian enclave. Some of the finest villas line the waveswept Marine Parade looking out over the Irish Sea. Local watercolourist Audrey Kyle was inspired to paint the fruity candy coloured terrace (lemon | lime | peach | blueberry) in the centre of Marine Parade. No wonder: a strong winter’s sunrise drenches the pointy gabled houses in an artist’s dream of deep hues.

Causeway Coast Antrim © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Marine Parade Whitehead Antrim Coast © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Whitehead Antrim Outdoor Swimming Pool © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Marine Parade Whitehead Antrim © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Until recently, Whitehead was not synonymous with gastrotourism. That all changed with the opening of The Bank House. You guessed it, a café and deli plus gift shop in a former bank. Owner Sinead Moane lives in the rambling red brick original bank manager’s house next door. “The Bank House is the first stop on Toast to Coast, a guided food tour of the Causeway Coastal route,” she explains over vegetarian brunch.

The Bank House Brunch Whitehead Antrim © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Everything is locally sourced. Providential provenance. “The Orchard Twist apple and blackcurrant juice comes from Armagh,” says Sinead. That’s the county famous for orchards. “The yoghurt is from the Clandeboye Estate. Next is Fivemiletown goat’s cheese.” Traditional soda bread is given a sharp twist with added chilli and pepper. Irish black butter is a less well known delicacy. “It includes brandy and liquorice,” Sinead confirms. The Bank House has transformed Whitehead from a detour to a destination.

The Bank House Whitehead Antrim © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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Bushmills + The Doors

Don’t Beat Around the Bush

Bushmills Doors © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Petty Session Court House, built by the Macnaghten family in 1834, a pub and two cottages.

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The Windsors + Frogmore Cottage Windsor

Fit for a Princess

Windsor Park © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Reel life.

Frogmore Cottage Windsor © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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Carlton Crescent Southampton + Samuel Toomer

The City and the Pillars

Carlton Crescent Conservation Area Southampton Architecture © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

What does Pevsner have to say? “The most spectacular piece of Regency development in Southampton… The Crescent starts at London Road and curves northwest, composed in the main of broad three bay three storey stuccoed detached houses linked together by screen walls, mostly sufficiently close to each other for the street, except in a few places, to appear as a piece of unified townscape. The houses vary in detail but are mostly the same in general composition, typical of Southampton with their elements of classical decoration almost without refinements…”

Carlton Crescent Conservation Area Southampton Building © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Carlton Crescent Conservation Area Southampton Townhouse © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Carlton Crescent Conservation Area Southampton House © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Carlton Crescent Conservation Area Southampton Terrace © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

A little piece of Brighton gone west; a miniature Regent’s Park flown south. On the cusp of the maritime city’s decline as a spa resort and its rise as a merchant port, riding the crest of this wave, businessman Edward Toomer (1764 to 1852) fortuitously bought land to the southwest of the verdant pearl that is Asylum Green. Even more fortuitously, his son Samuel (1801 to 1842) was an architect. This provincial John Nash was responsible for designing many of the houses on and around Carlton Crescent.

Carlton Crescent Conservation Area Southampton Balcony © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The area has a unified appearance, thanks in no small part to being wilfully stuccoed to the nines (except for tile hung flank walls and returns), but was actually developed over two decades beginning in 1825. It is first mentioned in that same year in the Hampshire Chronicle, “Carlton Crescent has this season made its appearance and contains eight handsomely built residences; being detached, these will, when finished, form by far the handsomest line of houses in Southampton.” They still do.

Carlton Crescent Conservation Area Southampton © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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Rare Champagne + La Dame de Pic Four Seasons Hotel 10 Trinity Square London

Lotto and Cavagnole and Faro and Lansquenet

Four Seasons at 10 Trinity Square Tower Hill London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Writing in Edwardian Architecture, Alastair Service describes the host building and its place in the architectural lexicon: “The commission for the Port of London Authority building was won in a competition of 1912 by Edwin Cooper (1873 to 1942), who had recently started a personal practice after working in a series of partnerships. Cooper’s success in the competition of 1911 for the St Marylebone Town Hall was, however, more significant for the future. Reviewing the entries for the competition, the editor of one architectural magazine wrote, ‘We cannot help asking ourselves whether all these colossal columns, domes, towers, groups of sculpture and other imposing features are felt by their authors to be the only natural and inevitable expression of the necessities of the case.’

Four Seasons at 10 Trinity Square London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Such criticism of extravagant building was in harmony with general feeling at the time. And the St Marylebone Town Hall built to Cooper’s designs shows a greatly simplified use of Classicism, emphasising the volumes in Holden’s [architect Charles Holden] way, rather than creating broken Baroque outlines encrusted in sculpture. The mention of Holden’s name is no coincidence. More than anyone else, it was his work that bridged the gap between the attempts at a Free Style and the varieties of Edwardian Classicism.”

Entrance La Dame de Pic Four Seasons at 10 Trinity Square London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The streamlined architecture of Marylebone Town Hall (long deprived of its sainthood), as Alastair Service observes, is more in keeping with a modern sensibility but the bombastic brilliance of Edwin Cooper’s portico is well suited to a Four Seasons flag. It mightn’t have been purpose built, but if those two other bastions of Beaux Arts architecture (The RAC Club and The Ritz) can be beacons of high end hospitality, why not the Port of London Authority building?

Column Four Seasons at 10 Trinity Square London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

La Dame de Pic restaurant is at the end of a short corridor off a vast domed rotunda lounge in the heart of the Four Seasons Hotel. It’s Anne-Sophie Pic’s first foray into the UK. She is the world’s most decorated female Michelin starred chef. Her third generation three Michelin star family owned restaurant is in Drôme; she also has restaurants in Lausanne, Paris and Singapore. Anne-Sophie says, “I know there is no feminine or masculine cuisine but my cuisine is very feminine because I put a lot of intuition, my feelings, into it.” Head Chef Luca Piscazzi brings these feelings to fruition.

Statue Four Seasons at 10 Trinity Square London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

White truffle – it’s in high season – is flaked over the cheese and mushroom gnocchi starter. Acquerello risotto main course is flavoured with pumpkin, bergamot and Yellow Bourbon coffee. Poached pear infused with sansho and ginger is decorated with argousier honey and beeswax. Each course is an adventurous fusion of taste and an avantgarde work of art. Unsurprisingly, the restaurant had barely opened before it snapped up a Michelin star. A second followed in hot pursuit.

Entrance Hall La Dame de Pic Four Seasons at 10 Trinity Square London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Fresco Four Seasons at 10 Trinity Square London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Lantern La Dame de Pic Four Seasons at 10 Trinity Square London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Flowers La Dame de Pic Four Seasons at 10 Trinity Square London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Butter La Dame de Pic Four Seasons at 10 Trinity Square London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Bread La Dame de Pic Four Seasons at 10 Trinity Square London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Mushroom La Dame de Pic Four Seasons at 10 Trinity Square London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chantilly La Dame de Pic Four Seasons at 10 Trinity Square London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Four Seasons at 10 Trinity Square may be quite close to the Tower of London and very close toSamuel Wyatt’s Trinity House but its immediate environs are surprisingly discreet. That doesn’t stop the 80 cover dining room being full on a midweek lunchtime. The interior is all about spare luxury. White walls and a tiled dado under a mirrored strip matching mirrored columns are softened by leather banquettes and a cluster of snugs below a central gigantic Chinese lantern.

Petit Fours La Dame de Pic Four Seasons at 10 Trinity Square London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

La Dame de Pic has joined an exclusive set of shops and restaurants in London stocking Rare Champagne. Nicolas Marzolf of Liberty Wines is the UK and Ireland Brand Manager of Piper-Heidsieck and Rare Champagne. While Piper-Heidsieck Champagne is Pino Noir dominant, Rare Champagne is 30 percent Pinot Noir and 70 percent Chardonnay. “Liberty Wines have a warehouse in Clapham,” he explains, “so an order placed by 3am can have a same day delivery by noon.” Harrods, Hedonism and Selfridges are shops selling Rare Champagne. It’s served in Core by Clare Smyth, Claridge’s, Scott’s and Sexy Fish restaurants.

Rare Champagne La Dame de Pic Four Seasons at 10 Trinity Square London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The two vintages available at La Dame de Pic are Blanc 2006 and Rosé 2008. “These are two very different Rare Champagnes,” notes Nicolas. “The year 2006 was warm – winter was pretty mild and there was a summer heatwave. You can see the fullness of the sun in the ripe fruit taste. The year 2008 was cold which resulted in a very delicate cuvée – graceful and not too full bodied. You always have the same aftertaste in all our Rare vintage: duality of warmth and minerality.”

Rare Champagne © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

He continues, “The noble origin of Rare Champagne dates back to a presentation to Marie Antoinette and expresses its revolutionary spirit against the trivialization of vintages. Over the last four decades, Rare Champagne has declared only 11 vintages. The tiara adorning the precious bottle features the triumphant vine prevailing over the whims of weather. The bottle design, called Pinte Majeure, is asymmetrical as it was originally mouthblown.” Today, the soft curves of the design pay tribute to Marie Antoinette, thelast Queen of France and the first modern icon, renowned for her ability to set new standards.

Nicolas Marzolf and Jan Konetzki La Dame de Pic Four Seasons at 10 Trinity Square London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“This is about more than just drinking Champagne,” relates Nicolas. “We are launching a luxury brand in the UK and Ireland. A luxury lifestyle – the Champagne experience. It’s about having nice glasses, nice places. The luxury way to entertain. And La Dame de Pic is the perfect place to enjoy Rare Champagne!” The celebrated sommelier Jan Konetzki, Director of Wine at Four Seasons, adds, “Rare Champagne is a great partner with La Dame de Pic’s food.”

Rotunda Bar La Dame de Pic Four Seasons at 10 Trinity Square London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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The Shard + Shangri La Hotel London

Curtins Closing

The Shard London View The Barbican © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The last hurrah. Armed with a camera, a lust for life and a lack of vertigo, it’s all about a 26 second ascent to the 34th floor of The Shard, roughly halfway up the UK’s tallest cloudscraper. The vertically ever decreasing floorplates of architect Renzo Piano’s glazed spike mean there’s increasingly a ravishing view from every direction: out, up, down, and of course, voyeuristically from the loos. The framing’s all terribly well conceived. London is all aglow; it’s rainbow’d. “The photographer is supertourist,” writer Susan Sontag believed, and where better to indulge in a spot of supertourism than the Shangri La Hotel in the English capital? Especially an end of epoch party from noon to sunset. Ms Sontag again, “Photographs really are experience captured.” Canapés as photographic art. Well, what isn’t? “Photography is an elegiac art, a twilight art.” She’s on a (camera) roll. “Photography is a kind of overstatement, a heroic copulation with the material world.” Click, click, slicing the flow of quixotic times passing. Susan Sontag once scribed, “Today everything exists to end in a photograph.” Some captured endings are as sharp as the tip of The Shard.

The Shard London View St Paul's Cathedral © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Shard London View Thames © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Shard London View Southwark Cathedral © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Shangri La Hotel The Shard London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Shard London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Shangri La Hotel The Shard London Champagne © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Shangri La Hotel The Shard London Canapes © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Shangri La Hotel The Shard London Party © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Shangri La Hotel The Shard London Canape © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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Mary Martin London + Fashion Fusion Citation of Honour

Just Like That

Mary Martin London Fashion Designer © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

It is just an ordinary Wednesday night at Mary Martin’s. Poland’s top model Katie and fellow runway success Yasmin from Sierra Leone and Lebanon are swapping notes and tips and dresses and jewellery. Dring dring. The phone goes. Afrobeats is blasting. Dring dring. It’s Teedum Nke-ee Mr Nigeria on the line. Good news from Ghana. In absentia, Mary has just been awarded the highest recognition in African fashion: the Continent’s Citation of Honour. And? “We admire you for your accomplishments, consistent efforts and contributions to the fashion industry both home and on the international stage. We say AYEEKOOO!”

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The House of Lavender’s Blue + Filmography

The Tapestry of Dawn

The House of Lavender's Blue Mirror © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“Your house is so cinematic!” Film Director Stephan Pierre Mitchell

The House of Lavender's Blue Pelmet © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“This is a museum! When you wake up that’s how the house makes you feel.” Model Yasmin Jamaal

The House of Lavender's Blue Painting © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“Creativity is creativity.” CEO Big Deal Films Dhanny Joshi

“You always bring the party with you.” MD Astrid Bray

Lose the prosaic. Live life à la Maud.

The House of Lavender's Blue Frame © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Fabulosity has a new.

The House of Lavender's Blue Curtain © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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XU Tearoom + Restaurant Soho London

Tea Total

Lavender's Blue Set © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

As dedicated fully signed up staunchly supportive loyal members of the Taiwanese Tea Appreciation Society, we were duty bound one wintry Saturday afternoon in Taipei Soho to dip and sip our way through the tasting menu and brew list of XU Tearoom and Restaurant. Time for a power tea: some like it hot (floral Ming Yue Baozhong); some like it cold (refreshing XU Sparkling Tea); we like it spiced up (plum Shoo Royale). In the upstairs dining room, closed thick velvety curtains and vertically ribbed Mackintoshian panelling create a darkly romantic setting for us to savour the pescatarian savouries:

XU Restaurant Soho London Facade © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

XU Restaurant Soho London Lights © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

XU Restaurant Soho London Lunch © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

XU Restaurant Soho London Tasting Menu © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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Printemps Paris +

Spring

Printemps and Place de la Concorde Paris © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

We’ll always have printemps Printemps.

Printemps Dome Paris © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Printemps Tree Paris © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Printemps Longchamp Paris © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Printemps Paris © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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Elisabeth Visoanska + Place des Vosges Paris

Fortune Favours the Few

Place des Vosges Paris © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

She may have one of the hottest addresses in Paris (Place des Vosges is of course Henri IV’s early 17th century grande projet of arcaded shops with residences above fronted by four palatial façades set around a garden square in the style of an Italian Piazza) but Elisabeth Visoanska, the glamorous Founder and President of the eponymous haute cosmétique company, loves to travel. In a revelatory exclusive, Elisabeth shares, “Travelling provides the opportunity to witness natural marvels and wonders, expanding our understanding and appreciate of this world.”

Elisabeth Visoanska Paris © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Elisabeth Visoanska London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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St Paul + St Louis Church Paris

Nous Emmener à l’Église

St Paul and St Louis Church Facade Le Marais Paris © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

In the very heart of the village of St Paul in the very heart of the quartier of Le Marais in the very heart of the 4th Arrondisement in the very heart of Paris is St Paul and St Louis Church. There is nowhere more atmospheric to be on a late Saturday afternoon in the depths of winter than this candlelit thin place resonating to the thrilling grandeur of organ playing.

St Paul and St Louis Church Le Marais Paris © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Paul and St Louis Church Dome Le Marais Paris © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Paul and St Louis Church Angel Le Marais Paris © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Paul and St Louis Church Balcony Le Marais Paris © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Paul and St Louis Church Ceiling Le Marais Paris © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Paul and St Louis Church Carving Le Marais Paris © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Paul and St Louis Church Cross Le Marais Paris © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Someone, somewhere, recently asked us what the sign INRI means above a crucifix. The acronym stands for the Latin phrase ‘Jesus Nazarenus Rex Judaeorum’. John 19:19 explains, “Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: ‘Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews’.”

St Paul and St Louis Church Candles Le Marais Paris © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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Lavender’s Blue + Montparnasse Paris

Positive Capability

Montparnasse Tower Paris © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The 14th Arrondisement hosted the vanguard of 1920s avant garde Paris. Writer Alice Toklas called it “the city of boulevard bars and Baudeloire”. Poet Guillaume Apollinaire went further: “a quarter of crazies”. Marianne Faithfull now calls it home, from riding in a sports car to missing the moon. Behind Georges-Eugène Haussmann’s homogeneity and square cut gentility lies the mysterious courtyard life of Paris played out under the shadow of Montparnasse Tower. It’s a 32 second lift ride to the 59th floor of the tower to view the sacred horizontality from the profane verticality.

Montparnasse Tower Panorama Paris © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Montparnasse Tower View Paris © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Montparnasse Tower Eiffel Tower View Paris © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The skyscraper was completed in 1973 to the design of Eugène Beaudouin, Urbain Cassan, Louis de Hoÿm de Marien and Jean Saubot. The tower’s height, all 210 metres, was not universally welcomed. It didn’t quite accord with Baron Haussmann’s rule that no building should be taller than the width of the boulevard on which it stood. Two years after Montparnasse Tower’s completion, President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing banned buildings over 32 metres in central Paris. In recent times, the limit has been relaxed to 50 metres but only on a case by case basis. Wallpaper* provides a contemporary reassessment, admiring the tower’s “wonderfully gridded curtain wall” before adding, “The redevelopment of the down-at-heel area around Gare Montparnasse in the early 1960s was, by and large, a piece of inspired city planning.”

Montparnasse Tower Rooftop Paris © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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Gae Aulenti + Musée d’Orsay Paris

Comme Il Faut

Musee d'Orsay Opening Paris © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“I don’t like to dress alla moda,” said Gae Aulenti in 1971. “The moment it’s loudly announced that red is in fashion, I stop wearing red. I want to dress in green.” Gigi by Colette reads: “Everything depends on the attitude.” One of very few postwar Italian female architects, Gae had attitude. She died in 2012 aged 84. Herbert Muschamp, then architecture critic for The Times, called her “the most important female architect since the beginning of time”. In 1986 she converted a Parisian railway station and hotel into a museum. Gae had form. She was a protégée of Carlo Scarpa – he singlehandedly reinvented museum conversions in the mid 20th century. A grand central aisle lit by the barrel vaulted glass ceiling of Victor Laloux’s original Beaux Arts design respects the original cavernous volume. Use of contemporary raw materials – wire mesh grid anyone? – emphasise her industrial designer roots and portray an honesty of expression learned from her master. And as for her insertions and interruptions and interventions? Such verve. Such vigour. So very self assured. She is post postmodern. But still, the architect managed to unify the diversity of spaces by using the same rough stone on walls and floors throughout. Gae had élan. “I do admire all of Gae’s work,” admits top architect John O’Connell, “and it weathers well too.” Musée d’Orsay, a museum of mostly French art from the 2nd Republic to the 2nd World War, is itself great art: building as artefact.

Musee d'Orsay Stonework Paris © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Musee d'Orsay Vitrine Paris © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Musee d'Orsay Wall Paris © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Musee d'Orsay Statuary Paris © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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