Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris AKA Le Corbusier was a Franco-Swiss architect. He wore thick eyeglasses which were characteristically French in their heft and cut. Brutalist eyeglasses, you might call them…
It’s trade show season. Fashion Week is winding its way around the world. Vision Expo West was last weekend and Silmo in Paris this past weekend. I’m busy working on something in New York and wasn’t at Silmo. I do remember past Silmos well.
The most unforgettable occurred a number of years ago. I could probably figure out which year but I won’t bother. I find the passage of time and associated thoughts of mortality less troubling if I view life as a continuum.
That year for a number of reasons travel plans were last minute. Although I can’t for the life of me recall why, I decided it’d be best to fly into Paris, drop my luggage off at the hotel and head directly to the show.
I couldn’t find a room in Paris in any of the hotels I was familiar with. I looked over the options and decided to book a room in a suburb that was almost directly on the Metro to Porte de Versailles where the trade show was being held. Just one transfer from the commuter line at Gare du Nord. Easy and economical.
Of course my plans hadn’t allowed for the transit strike which subsequently occurred.
I didn’t realize there was a transit strike at first. Nobody bothered to tell me: they didn’t speak English, I didn’t speak French. After a very long time a train finally rolled into the open air suburban station. It was packed like a cattle car with haggard, stressed-out, angry people. “Looks like Paris commutes are just as cheerful as New York commutes”, I said to myself.
I then noticed the train was heading in the wrong direction. I managed to communicate my alarm at which point I was told of the strike and that I was on some sort of provisional shuttle.
The whole thing comes back to me in dribs and drabs, more like a hallucination than a memory…
The only information was rumors in a language I didn’t speak.
Just for context I should mention that all the while I was groaning under a 50 pound bag with a shoulder strap that was shredding the Armani black label sport coat I was wearing. A numb, ongoing death march followed from one station to another, one provisional shuttle to another, on and on until finally, sometime that afternoon I made it to the trade show utterly exhausted.
The punch line was few customers had made it due to the strike.
If there’s one lasting memory I have from that day it’s the hurry the French convention center workers were in to close up and leave. For some reason I still can’t figure out, the public bathrooms were closed by means of an impenetrable, roll-down steel gate, like you might find on a liquor store in a ghetto. Of course they didn’t bother to check the stalls before locking up. I can still hear this one poor man literally howling while hammering and shaking the gate from inside.
The howling faded into a general urban din as I stepped out the doors and into the night, 50 pound bag slung over what was left of my Armani. The worst part of the journey was to come…
As far as I know Le Parc des Expositions de la Porte de Versailles à Paris wasn’t the handiwork of Le Corbusier but his legacy is felt in the massive amounts of concrete everywhere.
I suppose the legacy of his glasses is still with us as well. Thick round eyewear has had a resurgence the past 5 years or so. His preferred style, however, was jauntier and more eccentric than the versions proliferating now.
Here’s a version from my personal collection:
These are acetate, though I’ve seen some nice ones made of actual tortoise. Some of the nicest ones came from the Jura mountain region in France, just over the border from where Le Corbusier himself was from.
In those days architects had style.