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Big Sur - Hiking Andrew Molera State Park

One of the great delights of living in the Bay Area is the proximity to the natural beauty of California and it's hard to beat the stunning drive down Highway One to Big Sur. This is certainly one of the iconic American road trips, but for me the joy of being in the area is getting out of your car and hitting a trail, so you can be "in" the landscape rather than just looking at it from the asphalt. 

Modern Architecture Walk in Paris

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Modern architecture walk below....

On one of the few warm sunny days this spring we took a Modern Architecture tour with Paris Walks. The weather was glorious and we walked (from the Marais) east along the river towards Bercy where we were meeting up with the group. The tour took us from Bercy, across the Seine to the Left Bank and then back (towards town) along the redeveloped waterfront to the Institut du Monde Arabe, which is close to the eastern point of the Isle St Louis. We only had to cross back over the Seine to finish the loop.
After all the time we've spent admiring the historical architecture in Paris it was fun to see more of the contemporary city. Most of these public buildings were the legacy of President Mitterand and were planned and constructed in the 1980s in an attempt to revitalize this area. We started looking at the Palais Omnisports and the Ministry of Finance building which are next to the Bercy metro stop. For some reason this shot, of the  Finance Ministry from the metro, looks just like an architectural model, complete with pedestrians!
As I mentioned in a previous post on the Louvre, the Ministry of Finance was relocated as part of I. M. Pei's master plan for the new museum. Clearly a move to Bercy was a downgrade, and  as a sweetener the new building includes a helipad and speed boat access from the Seine. Perhaps for an "financial" emergencies that called for swift moving bureaucrats? In the view below (which we saw after we'd crossed the river) you can see the circular helipad on the left and the way in which the building straddles the road to reach the river. The docking area is most clearly visible in the second photo below.
We stopped to admire Gehry's Cinematheque  which has a very plain face on one side and an attention getting  undulating  facade on the other. For some reason it looked to us like a post modern version of  a fairy tale medieval castle. Originally opened as the American Center the building has been repurposed and it's worth having a look inside. 
Currently this is Gehry's only work in Paris though his cloud design for the  Louis Vuitton Foundation for Creation (or LVMH Museum) in the Bois du Boulogne is currently under construction - despite having  run into considerable opposition. The area around the Palais Omonisports  and the Cinematheque includes a large park which stretches to the river. 
Above, D. with the Palais Omnisports behind and  a view of the same building from the river below.
We crossed the river by  the wonderfully undulating Simone de Beauvior footbridge and could see the towers of the Bibliotheque Nationale in front of us. The architectural guide and many Parisians we met, were highly critical of the 1980s design of the Bibliotheque Nationale but we liked it. 
This was a controversial development because of the scale of the buildings and the choice to place the books above ground in four large book shaped towers. It seems the architect failed to fully consider light damage and a costly retrofit was required.
Below you can see the shades that were installed  when it became obvious that the collections needed to be protected from the sunlight.
There was a lot of wide open space around the towers, which we liked, and a sunken garden that you can see from the lower reading rooms. The scale is a very monumental and the outdoor space  isn't particularly user friendly, but we felt the empty space framed the buildings very well - though our opinion was clearly in the minority!
From here we walked west, heading back to the center of town along the river bank. This is an area that has been regenerated with walkways, parks, repurposed and re-clad warehouses and various public facilities along the river. There's even a floating swimming pool named after the American cabaret artist Josephine Baker!
It was a warm Saturday afternoon and lots of families were out and about, they were as happy as we were to see the sun!
There's a wonderful mix of older bridges and modern buildings.
Below is the Pont de Bercy where metro line six crosses the Seine.
We ended the walk at Jean Nouvel's Institut du Monde Arabe. Completed in 1987 it is a gorgeous modern building and cemented Nouvel's reputation as a "star" architect. Prtizker Prize winner Nouvel has a number of other buildings in Paris which are worth visiting, including the Fondation Cartier pour L'Art Contemporain and the Musee quai Branly.
The decorative facade features individual aperture like  disks which are meant to open and close - though they looked static when we examined them. 

Below, our walking group standing next to another Pritzker Prize winning architect's work. This time Iraqi Zaha Hadid's extraordinary mobile art pavilion. The pavilion which was commissioned by Karl Largerfeld of Chanel in 2007,  has now found a permanent home in the courtyard of the Institut.
I had read about the view from the top floor of the Institute du Monde Arabe but for some reason I still hadn't made it over there despite having passed the building multiple times. It really is worth a detour. The viewing area has free admission walk in and take the elevators to the top floor. There's an open deck right next to the restaurant, as you can see the view of Notre Dame is spectacular. A wonderful contrast to the end of a modern architecture walk!
If you'd like to do a version of this walk on your own consider looking into the Invisible Paris app which offers a Contemporary Architecture Walking Tour for only $1:99.

If you liked this, you might like my post on the Courtauld's Art Deco Palace at Eltham outside London or this post on Finnish Art Nouveau.