Archive for January, 2014

I realize this may be a bit of a stretch, but if you’re in Paris this week please join me as I lead a very brief historical tour at the Place Vendôme (either Sunday, January 5 or Monday, January 6). The weather in Paris is very unpredictable right now, so please check on my twitter feed for the exact time.


The tour relates to a project I have been working on for several years – a reconstruction of a landscape built by the revolutionary Commune de Paris in 1871 in the Place Vendôme. You can read about the project here and here (Leopold Lambert of the Funambulist also wrote a few things about it that can be found here).

In May of 1871 the Commune demolished the Vendôme Column in an act of anti-war and anti-imperial protest. As part of the demolition, the Commune built a landscape — an enormous mound — in front of the column and used this landscape to mitigate the impact of this destruction on the surrounding plaza. The mound acted as a cushion that protected the surrounding plaza as the huge bronze and marble column came crashing down onto it. But all evidence of this landscape and the destruction of the column are long-gone. The column you see in the contemporary plaza is a reconstruction, finished after the Commune was brutally put down.

I’ll explain more about all of this during the tour, show you where and how the landscape was made, some of the other structures built by the commune in the plaza, how the column was brought down, how the landscape related to transformations in the political ecology of mid to late 19th century Paris (something that the geographer and architect Samuel Garcia is helping me discover), and why I think this landscape should have a significant role in commemorating the Commune and radical landscapes more generally.

The tour will be a way to learn more about the history of this important urban action, but equally important it will be photographed (by Fabrizio Amoroso) and included in an upcoming exhibition about the history of the mound and my efforts to reconstruct the mound at the Canadian Centre for Architecture this summer.

It would be great if you joined us, learned more about the history of the plaza, the radical activities that took place there, how urban landscapes (literally heaps of natural stuff) have taken on a more radical function in the history of cities, and how we might incorporate these marginal and sometimes radical landscapes into the contemporary experience of cities. Again, please check twitter for updates on exact times and potential date changes.