Paris autrefois

Aquarelles de Christian Bénilan

Paris of the past. From the Middle Ages to the Belle Epoque. One is surprised to see this type of book with an introduction by Rudy Ricciotti, the most recent national Architecture prize, who busies himself on construction sites where glass, cement and steel call the rules (the recent Centre chorégraphique in Aix-en-Provence or the department of Islamic art at the Louvre). Indeed, in this book we have watercolors that speak not only of a Paris of the past, but what is more, that has disappeared. Fortunately, such extreme contemporaneousness does not exclude a certain respect for the past… The 80 images by Christian Bénilan, the architect from the Bâtiments de France, reconstruct important works by Boffrand, Philibert de l’Orme or Brongniart (the one of the Bourse -the Paris stock exchange): private mansions, gardens, administrative buildings. At a time when France has 40 000 historical monuments and for which the upkeep weighs heavily on the public budgets, here is proof that the past centuries did not have a blind respect for buildings. Of course we must preserve the past. But up to what point? This is the question the book brings up, in spite of itself. The answer is difficult and highly political…

• Paris autrefois, watercolors by Christian Bénilan, éditions Massin, 2006, ISBN : 2-7072-0538-9, 30 €.

Paris autrefois - Aquarelles de Christian Bénilan

Review published in the newsletter #32 - from 1 February 2007 to 6 February 2020

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