Terms in this set (12)

No one would mistake Claude Monet's represen- tation of the Gare Saint-Lazare ( Fig. 1-9 ) for a por- trait. And yet his depiction of the Paris train station that by 1868 was handling over 13 million commuter passengers a year captures, as fully as Jahangir in Dar- bar, the spirit of its age. Beginning in 1852, Paris had undergone a complete transformation. Long, straight, wide boulevards had been extended across the city. Working-class citizens, who had previously lived in the labyrinth of ancient streets that the boulevards re- placed, were removed to the suburbs, along with the industry they supported. Shops, cafés, and the world's first department stores lined the broad sidewalks of the new promenades. New parks, squares, and gardens were built, and the avenues were lined with over 100,000 newly planted trees. In order to allow traffic to flow seamlessly around the train station, a massive new bridge, the Pont de l'Europe, was built over the tracks. By the time Monet painted the Gare Saint-Lazare in 1877, these changes had been effected. His painting captures the transformation of not only Paris, but modernity itself. Here is a portrait of the new modern world, for better or worse-- both the promise of the railroad, of modern speed and industry, and the atmosphere of steam and smoke created in its wake. All around this scene--and Monet painted it seven times in 1877--are the new open av- enues of airy light, but here, Monet seems to suggest, just below ground level, lies the heart of the new modern city. In describing the world, the artist is free to celebrate and praise it, or critique and ridicule it, or, as is the case here, acknowledge its ambiguities.
The Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Center in Nouméa, New Caledonia, an island in the South Pacific, illustrates these principles ( Fig. 1-12 ). The architect is Renzo Piano, an Italian, but the principles guid- ing his design are anything but Western. The Cen- ter is named after a leader of the island's indigenous people, the Kanak, and it is dedicated to preserving and transmitting Kanak culture. Piano studied Kanak culture thoroughly, and his design blends Kanak tradi- tion with green architectural principles. The buildings are constructed of wood and bamboo, easily renewable resources of the region. Each of the Center's 10 pavil- ions represents a typical Kanak dwelling (in a finished dwelling the vertical staves would rise to meet at the top, and the horizontal elements would weave in and out between the staves, as in basketry). Piano left the dwelling forms unfinished, as if under construction, but to a purpose--they serve as wind scoops, catch- ing breezes off the nearby ocean and directing them down to cool the inner rooms, the roofs of which face south at an angle that allows them to be lit largely by direct daylight. As in a Kanak village, the pavilions are linked with a covered walkway. Piano describes the project as "an expression of the harmonious rela- tionship with the environment that is typical of the local culture. They are curved structures resembling huts, built out of wooden joists and ribs; they are con- tainers of an archaic appearance, whose interiors are equipped with all the possibilities offered by modern technology."