When you go to Paris, you walk through Paris, and when you walk through Paris, you inhale the architecture along with the scent of Gitanes and toasted cheese. You breathe in Beaux-Arts at the boulangerie and art deco with your demitasse. Brutalism, unexpected and unwelcome, you breathe in like bus exhaust.
And yet, for all its weighty, depressive concrete (all of it mysteriously, continuously damp), brutalist architecture was necessary in Paris, and a hundred other grand cities. It was a way to build quickly and inexpensively, to express function nakedly, to argue that architecture is not a frivolous undertaking but a tool for humanity’s progress. In the 1950s and ’60s, it was an architecture of hope. And so, of course, people hated it and continue to do so.
Brutalist Paris Map is the title of just exactly that: a treasure map of these Parisian brutalist rarities. It is rendered in the nearly obsolete medium of paper, in a minimalist palette with photographs the color of crushed gravel aggregate. Published by London’s Blue Crow Media—the corporate identity of founder Derek Lamberton—it reminds travelers that the City of Light can be surprisingly heavy.
Blue Crow has published other architectural maps, in styles comfortable and un-. These include brutalist Boston, Sydney, and Washington; Tokyo and New York in concrete; modernist Belgrade and Berlin along with constructivist Moscow; and Janus-faced London in art deco and brutalism. Most maps run £8 (about $11); they’re available individually or in themed collections.
Of late, Blue Crow has attracted attention with the London Underground Architecture & Design Map, a highly praised compendium of the Tube’s most notable stations, with commentary by transport design historian Mark Ovenden and photography (in color, this time) by Will Scott. Travelers who lack enthusiasm for trains can follow Blue Crow maps that lay out London in cocktails, chocolate, craft beer, and culinary destinations.
This traveler will never stop loving a paper map, but these Blue Crow maps are something more. They are travel planners for peculiar pilgrims, revealing an occult cartography of the obscure and overlooked. They have us ready for 10 brutal days in Paris, and damn the art deco.
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