By John Burns
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Go museum hopping in Tasmania, or birdwatching in London. Explore the burgeoning fashion community in Dakar. Take a bicycle tour through Idaho, or a train trip from Oslo to Bergen. Drawing on the magazine’s global community of writers and photographers, Kinfolk Travel takes readers to over 20 location across five continents, with travel tips from locals, stunning images, and thoughtful essays.
Movement, food and cultural idiosyncrasies: simple pleasures are the key to carving out space in a city and finding ways to enjoy yourself within it.
In suburbs and commuter towns, experimental housing estates represent a different vision of Parisian living. For Italian designer Fabrizio Casiraghi, these architectural outliers are a bracing contrast to the saccharine center of his adoptive home.
The Suburban Sights of Paris
Be it elegant hôtels particuliers, vaulted churches or the Hausmannian typology that has made Paris so readily identifiable, the city's romanticized history lies in its structural silhouette. Fabrizio Casiraghi, a Milan-born Paris-based interior designer with an urban planning background, considers France's respect for its past an asset. "If you're on the Pont Neuf, and you see the Seine, it's fantastic," he remarks. "It's like in every movie, and it's the best landscape."
Casiraghi's own architectural touchstone, however, is an outlier to cinematic Paris: the remarkable and gargantuan Espaces d'Abraxas, conceived by Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill in the suburb of Noisy-le-Grand. The structure is in Marne-la-Vallée, an hour's ride east of the Paris perimeter on the region's RER A commuter trains. Casiraghi was floored by its sheer scope during his first encounter: "You feel very small; it's the scenography of a theater," he says. "That's a feeling we need sometimes, to rediscover new things about ourselves."
Bofill's utopian edifices were designed to represent a truly alternative approach to Parisian living—tellingly, Espaces d'Abraxas served as the backdrop for dystopian movies like The Hunger Games: Mockingjay and Brazil. As a foreigner, Bofill wasn't beholden to French traditions or codes—and this is what makes the three buildings (Le Palacio, Le Théâtre and L'Arc) so thrilling. Their expansiveness is a kind of exhale relative to Paris's constricted density, and even its conservative homogeneity. The experiential value of Bofill's buildings is the new sculptural sense of space they inspire, one that is radically different from the rigorous uniformity of the city center.
The Espaces d'Abraxas offer a singular visual vocabulary and unusual scale for the Île-de-France—so much so that Casiraghi likens a trip to the Espaces d'Abraxas to his first teenage visit to New Delhi, in that it provoked a kind of sensorial overload. "Only Bofill could do that, and that is its strength. It's like a piece of art," he says. Its aesthetic punch stems from its oversize proportions: "Everything is neoclassical—like typical Greek columns—but enormous! When you walk along the agora, it's completely different than walking along a boulevard."
Vast estates on the outskirts of Paris, known as banlieues, were originally built in the latter half of the twentieth century to house—and sequester—immigrant populations. The communities and topographies alike were stigmatized, although these projects were framed under the utopian narrative of a ville nouvelle, or new city. The stigma stemmed from socioeconomic factors and the implementation of utilitarian structures, a kind of explicit "othering" by flouting any continuity with archetypal French design and lifestyle.
Most banlieue buildings are "horrible boxes with no connection to the city and no architectural value," Casiraghi states. Bofill, however, applied new iconography to the banlieue, as well as a specific conceptualization of metropolitan living: a mélange across ethnic, social, economic and generational lines. Based on sociological studies he'd read, he saw the necessity of social mixing, insisting that a certain percentage of recent immigrant communities be threaded with local French ones within the residences. Casiraghi concurs that this is the crux of well-adapted urban living.
A handful of Paris's other suburban sites are worth visiting too: the cluster of stainless-steel residential buildings Les Tours Aillaud of Cité Pablo Picasso in Nanterre (which have recently undergone a vast multi-million-euro renovation), the four-tiered buildings bundled as Les Damiers at La Défense in Courbevoie and the ten remarkable buildings with bulbous balconies producing undulating forms known as Les Choux (choux being French for cabbage) in Créteil.
Casiraghi's own polished, understated aesthetic—a mix of Parisian decorative tradition and Milanese sobriety—has made him a draw for discerning design commissions: boutiques for Lemaire and Kenzo in the Haut Marais, or the interiors for Café de l'Esplanade in the seventh arrondissement, and Drouant restaurant in the second. "I live in the ninth—one of the most fancy, trendy arrondissements in Paris. In my street, there are two social housing buildings. When you put social housing next to people who can buy an apartment for two million euros—it's something," he said. "Having total uniformity of people from the same backgrounds doesn't work."
Today, whether these aging banlieue projects are particularly livable is debatable—in fact, there were plans to demolish the Espaces d'Abraxas development in 2006, which were blocked.
France is deeply proud of, and protective of, its heritage— perhaps most fervently in the realm of architecture. Visitors and residents alike tend to want the mythology of Paris— with its elegance and taste—to remain undisturbed, rather than refreshed, even in the twenty-first century. But Paris is in the process of implementing an ambitious urban plan for the future: bridging the divide between the underprivileged banlieues and the central arrondissements. The hope is to make communities less sectarian and less isolated. Perhaps it will also lead to a flowering of culture outside of the city center.
Casiraghi believes that if Bofill's original vision for the Espaces d'Abraxas had been better maintained, the complex could have become a design destination, joining the pantheon of long-standing Paris landmarks. Even in a place as seemingly suspended in the past as Paris, what possesses value and beauty can shift. "A person living in the first or second arrondissement doesn't want to go to the eighteenth," Casiraghi laughs—by extension, the reticence to go to Noisy-le-Grand is even greater. "Yet people will travel to the chapel made by Le Corbusier in middle-of-nowhere France. Why couldn't they come here?"
Les Arcades du Lac at Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines is just over an hour on the train from Paris's Gare du Nord. The social housing project was the first that architect Ricardo Bofill completed in France.
Casiraghi walks through Les Arcades du Lac, which are entirely pedestrianized. The apartment blocks were designed to mimic the hedgerows of a formal French garden.
Les Tours Aillaud (a thirty-minute train ride from Châtelet–Les Halles station) were built in 1976 and comprise over 1,600 apartments.
What unites each apartment at Les Tours Aillaud is Aillaud's retro-futuristic window design—each is circular or shaped like a water droplet.
Sarabande pour Picasso, a sculpture by Spanish artist Miguel Berrocal, is just one the decorative flourishes at Les Arènes de Picasso. The social housing complex is sometimes referred to as "Les Camemberts."
Designed by Manuel Núñez Yanowsky and inaugurated in the mid-1980s, Les Arènes de Picasso (a twenty-five-minute train ride from Châtelet–Les Halles station) is one of Noisy-le-Grand's most striking sites.
post-modern places around PARIS
LES TOURS AILLAUD CITé PABLO PICASSO
The soaring steel spires of La Défense are a world away from the Paris you think you know. On the edge of the city's famous business district are the white, pink and blue-veneered Tours Aillaud, more commonly known as the Tours Nuages—or Cloud Towers—whose insouciant undulations add a touch of whimsy to an otherwise gray district.
LES DAMIERS DE LA DéFENSE
These two pyramid-shaped apartment buildings from the 1960s are looked on affectionately by many—including Brutalism buffs and the two tenants who have so far resisted eviction. To the Russian heritage group whose plans to transform the Damiers into two soaring spires have so far gone unrealized, they are eyesores whose time has been and gone.
LES espaces d'abraxas
Ricardo Bofill conceived Les Espaces d'Abraxas as an "urban monument." The three main buildings feature design flourishes—cornices and columns—inspired by neoclassical buildings in the city center.
LES ARCADES DU LAC
The mixed suburban and low-income housing complex of Les Arcades du Lac, built in 1981 by Ricardo Bofill's Taller de Arquitectura, was designed as a response to two very disparate architectural projects. First, they exist in opposition to Le Corbusier's stark white housing projects of the 1960s. But also they are a reaction against the opulence of the nearby Château Versailles.
CITé DU PARC
Viewed aerially, the Brutalist Cité du Parc housing complex in the Ivry-sur-Seine suburb of Paris doesn't look particularly hospitable—its spiky jags of concrete make it look more like a huge throwing star than a welcoming apartment complex. But look closer: down in those nooks and crannies are leafy balconies and cozy, homely comforts.
LES ORGUES DE FLANDRE
The Organs of Flanders, four Brutalist towers in the nineteenth arrondissement, are named after types of musical compositions: prelude, fugue, cantata and sonata. They seem to undulate musically too: leaning over the street here, a staircase spiraling upward there. But Brutalist principles hold true in that the towers are also assigned functional numbers to identify them.
24 Rue Archereau, Paris
LA CITé CURIAL-CAMBRAI
The interlocking balcony systems of the Cité Curial-Cambrai, by which one corner of the building is connected to another, gives it the appearance of a vertical maze. With this unifying effect, it's easy to forget that the block comprises dozens of separate apartments, divided internally by innumerable walls.
CHOUX DE CRéTEIL
Paris has its asparagus—that's the nickname Parisians gave the Eiffel Tower when it was first erected in 1887—and the suburb of Créteil has its cabbages. Ten white, 1970s-era towers of fifteen stories each grow out of the ground, with leaf-shaped balconies from which to enjoy the view.
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA
Racing through city streets may seem counterintuitive to slow travel. In Seoul, however, running brings motivation and a means by which to explore the Korean metropolis—at least for local running club founder James Lee McQuown.
Running the Streets of Seoul
As one of the world's most frenzied megacities, Seoul might not seem the likeliest setting in which to seek a runner's high. The sidewalks are stuffed with vendors and pedestrians; the roads rammed end-to-end come rush hour. Yet local runners know that it's precisely this chaos that gives crossing Seoul on two feet a certain unparalleled feeling of relief—maybe even of meditative reprieve.
Ten years ago, running wasn't the trend it is now in South Korea. The casual observer would have been hard-pressed to spot anyone partaking besides the occasional ajeossi, a middle-aged man, most likely wearing a pair of short shorts and maybe even carrying a handheld tape player to listen, without headphones, to some old-timey tunes. Since then, however, the running scene has greatly expanded, and the culture surrounding it has too—thanks in no small part to one underground crew of DJs.
In 2013, six members of the 360 Sounds collective of musicians and artists decided to broaden their domain from the nightclubs to the roads, at first simply as a way to bring balance to their unhealthy lifestyle of late nights and heavy drinking. They called their group the Private Road Running Club—it was an informal get-together of friends at the time. But when more and more people—and brands—inquired about getting involved, PRRC opened up to the public.
"There has been a huge growth in the community, and it's awesome we were able to be a part of that spark," says PRRC cofounder James Lee McQuown, thirty-eight, who works as a model and DJ in Seoul. "When we started, people were like, 'What are these kids doing?' . . . When everyone's out just drinking, having fun, we're going out and sweating. It took a few years for people to catch on."
Since its founding, membership at PRRC—@prrc1936 on Instagram—has grown to be hundreds strong, with between thirty and fifty members showing up regularly for runs. Lee himself went from rarely running anything beyond five miles (8 km) before PRRC to lacing up on a near-daily basis, rain or shine (or, in Korea, fine dust or no fine dust). Over the years he has participated in six marathons and nineteen other races. "Private Road Running Club sort of became a metaphor, because even if you run with other people, you still have to physically run your own private road. If life is a marathon, it's your responsibility to pace yourself," he says.
Seoul, with its urban variety and versatility, has become a premier running city. One day, a runner could choose mountain courses and dirt trails; the next, the wide-open space of a park or the flat, even path of a track. In spring, dedication to the practice will be rewarded with the sights and scents of cherry blossoms; in autumn, the foliage falling in rich rusts and auburns.
For sociable runners, PRRC is a friendly group that encourages people to #JoinTheMotion and will welcome any tourists who reach out. "Come out and be part of the movement," Lee says. And for those who prefer to run and explore alone, he has no shortage of recommendations to offer.
"In terms of routes, the prize of our city has to be the Han River. The river acts as an equator, splitting Seoul into north and south, so it's the most accessible and largest open space within our city limits," he says. "The Han stretches beyond the city so you can run to your heart's content. I've run several solo marathons riverside." Another pleasant waterway to follow is Cheonggyecheon, which flows through an area of urban renewal downtown, eventually connecting with the Han. Lee also suggests the popular routes of Seoul Forest, Olympic Park, Yeouido Park, Sky Park and Namsan, the park and mountain at the heart of the city.
But, he adds, visiting runners shouldn't limit themselves to preset paths. "Just go out and run in one direction. Get lost. And then you can always catch a cab or get a train and find your way back," he says. "It's a great way to see the city. Because it's not dangerous here, you can be a little bit more ambitious, a little more adventurous."
There is no better way to get to know Seoul, Lee believes, than running your way through it. "It allows you to appreciate your surroundings more," he says. "There's an intimacy that develops when you traverse certain distances by foot. You get a feel for the environment, you notice the wildlife, you take in the smells, and even feel the season—all things that would be missed if locked away in a car or train."
Lee (right) and members of the Private Road Running Club take a route through Namsan Park, directly north of Itaewon. The park includes the entirety of Namsan mountain.
Itaewon-ro is a lively street near Namsan Park. The streets that wind down through the surrounding neighborhood are full of cafés where you can unwind postworkout.
The routes through Namsan Park are steeply inclined; the park is known for the 860-foot (262 m) peak at its heart. At the top you'll find the iconic Seoul Tower and spectacular views of the Seoul cityscape.
Itaewon is Seoul's most international neighborhood and where you'll find some of the city's most exciting restaurants, retail stores and nightlife. The name Itaewon alludes to its former abundance of pear trees.
Private Road Running Club welcomes any tourists who would like to join in and explore Seoul. Lee encourages anyone who would like to take part to simply reach out over social media.
Namsan Park can be seen from all over Seoul, and residents use the grassy parklands and tree-lined pathways in the park surrounding it for daily exercise. The park is at its most picturesque during cherry blossom season each spring.
running trails through SEOUL
There are pathways wending along the banks of the Han River on both of its sides that make ideal running routes. A loop between the Banpo and Hannam Bridges takes you through several riverside parks on a roughly four-mile (6.4 km) circuit.
The largest park in Seoul features over six miles (10 km) of paved pathways, as well as a 1.2-mile (2 km) steady climb up to the higher ground, where the Seoul Tower presides over the city. Visits in spring are spectacular, as the park is also home to the city's largest concentration of cherry blossom trees.
One of the tributaries of the Han River, Yangjaecheon Stream is a verdant public works project running 4.3 miles (7 km) between Gangnam and the Seoul Racecourse Park. Along the trail are hundreds of mature metasequoia trees, providing shade and a calming atmosphere.
A five-mile (8 km) run around the island of Yeouido in central Seoul affords views of the National Assembly building, the Korea Development Bank and other scions of the metropole.
BUKHANSAN NATIONAL PARK
It's just a twenty-minute drive, traffic depending, from central Seoul to the visitor center at Bukhansan National Park. Once you get there, you'll find three craggy granite peaks to hike and over thirty square miles (78 sq km) of forest to run through. Pause for temple visits and rock climbs.
Built on the site of a former landfill in central Seoul, Millennium Park features trails that culminate at Sky Park, or Haneul Park in Korean. Run up 291 stairs that crisscross a steep embankment, then down and over to one of the four other interconnected parks that make up the complex.
A major urban renewal project completed in 2005, Cheonggyecheon Stream runs over six miles (10 km) through central Seoul, passing some of the most vibrant entertainment, shopping and economic centers of the city. Along the route, Candle Fountain is of particular note, featuring spectacularly lit thirteen-foot-high (4 m) water features.
Built to host the 1988 Summer Olympics, Seoul's Olympic Park is home to the World Peace Gate, which harbors an eternal flame and a series of murals. Zoom by the flame and carry on to check out the two-hundred-plus pieces in the Sculpture Park, flag plaza and the fragrant Rose Park.
The Chilean capital marches to the beat of its own drum. According to electropop musician Javiera Mena, there's no better way to feel Santiago's spirit than by listening to it—on an evening spent hopping between music venues and bars.
The Soundtrack of Santiago
Chile's snow-dusted Andean backbone stretches impressively over Santiago; below, the glittering skyline of the capital's financial quarter is punctured by the Gran Torre Santiago, South America's tallest building. At street level, however, things are more dynamic: a thriving underground scene, strident protests and wider demographic shifts are amplifying the soundtrack of a city in transition.
Silence is an unfashionable commodity here. "I'm a down-town girl," says electropop artist Javiera Mena, who grew up between the colorful Mapocho, Yungay and República barrios in the heart of the city. In 2019, she moved to Spain to explore new career opportunities. "I feel like I never really left Santiago," she says. "I'm always coming and going. My roots are in the city center, and that's where I go to reconnect with who I am." This neighborhood offers a window into Santiago's vibrant nightlife: "Santiago is so segregated geographically and economically that people rarely get to mix, but the center is where you really see what's going on in Chile," she says.
Mena and her contemporaries have given Santiago an experimental, electronic makeover. Mena was born in 1983 under General Augusto Pinochet's repressive dictatorship, and struggled to find common ground with Nueva Canción, the austere folklorists popular with her parents' generation. "I didn't like it at all as a rebellious teenager," she says. "It was serious music for hippies."
As one of the lucky few to have internet in the mid-1990s, she set about downloading British and German music and later spent long afternoons in front of the computer composing her own. Back then, she says, there were almost no foreigners, but migration to Chile has climbed sharply in just a few short years: nearly 1.5 million foreign nationals now reside in the country. In turn, the city's rhythm has taken a marked departure from the iconic soundtrack of the 1960s and early '70s, when the protagonists of the Nueva Canción movement propelled Chilean music onto the world stage.
Mena soon found herself bridging the mainstream and experimental at the city's small venues alongside alternative rock bands including Congelador and Pánico, as well as hip-hop acts like Tiro de Gracia and Makiza. She was eventually invited to perform at Blondie—a renowned underground club in the city center that remains one of her favorite venues.
With several floors hosting live DJ sets, Blondie has been paving the way for the city's gay-friendly venues since the 1990s. "It was the place where the misfits and outsiders would meet up, and where I first realized that there were actually a lot of people like me," says Mena. "I grew up frightened of saying that I was a lesbian because I knew what the consequences could be. There were always spaces for gay men, but there weren't many openly gay women at that time. I see progress every time I am back in Santiago now."
Mena says that she also heads to Club Bizarre whenever she returns, and recommends Recreo Festivals, the pop-up electro events that temporarily breathe energy into abandoned spaces across the city. No matter where your night begins, chances are you will end up in one of two popular barrios, Brasil or Yungay, where nineteenth-century avenues are lined with lively bars, nightclubs and cultural venues. At one end of Calle Agustinas, a street in Yungay, the Centro Cultural Matucana 100 puts on a comprehensive program of theater, dance, live music and visual arts—attracting top Chilean and international acts. At the other end of the neighborhood are the Estación Mapocho and Palacio Pereira cultural centers, both of which Mena used to perform at early on in her career.
Since the spring of 2019, Santiago has been gripped by a visceral protest movement, calling out Chile's deep inequalities and challenging the country's outward image of economic success. In the days after the protest movement exploded into life, the anthems of the Nueva Canción generation rang again through the streets, and cacerolazos—pot-banging protests—united the city in a clamorous, revolutionary cacophony. "The cacerolazos bring a tear to my eye because they are such a primitive, unifying expression of dissent. But this is a pop culture movement too," says Mena. Amid an explosion of color, music, performance and art, graffiti artists were quick to transcribe their dissent onto the walls of downtown Santiago. Across the Mapocho River in Bellavista, another barrio long established as one of Santiago's best for bars and live music, the Museo del Estallido Social has collected much of the art from the protests alongside video and audio recordings.
"Ever since I was a child there has been social discontent," says Mena. "This was just the drop that made the glass overflow." While Santiago remains a foreign travelers' gateway to the Patagonian ice fields, Easter Island and the Atacama Desert, music and protest have intertwined to give the Chilean capital's downtown a rhythm all of its own—that of a city adjusting to a new era.
Before her acclaimed breakthrough, Chilean synth-pop musician Javiera Mena started out in Santiago, performing at the city's underground parties and clubs.
Bar El Bajo, located within Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral, opened at the end of 2020. Inside is a stage for live music, and outside plant-filled terraces overlook Plaza Zócalo.
- On Sale
- Nov 3, 2021
- Page Count
- 352 pages