Paris Summer Program (5/27-6/27) | 2015

This summer I decided to take a summer program in Paris, and also travel around Eastern Europe after the program ended. I saw this as a chance to broaden my horizon, since I've mainly only been to countries in Asia, and also the US. I was interested to see different cultural conflicts and architecture amongst nearby European countries.This blog is written a few months after my whole summer trip concluded, so I might not be able to remember every detail that happened during this summer program, but I can still remember the amount of money that went out of my wallet... I'm using mostly raw images, because there's way too many images to edit and way too little time on hand. Maybe one day I will try to make a higher quality blog, but I have way too much on my plate now to beautify this blog at this moment!  (Smart phone photos ftw)

Anyways I arrived around 7 AM at Paris CDG airport and got to my hostel around 9 AM, but I soon realized I could only check in after 2 PM so I decided to store my luggage at the hostel roam around Paris with a huge backpack. ( I stayed at Generator Hostels for 2 days before the program started)

I walked from the Colonial Fabian area all the way to Place de la Republique then down south the Notre Dame, and along the river to the exterior of the Louvre. I carried a baguette for lunch and ventured across Paris for about 5 hours, sleepy and exhausted from the 10 hour plane ride from Philadelphia. Walking towards whatever caught my eye across the long axial streets, I didn't even know where I was going but I ended up seeing so much of Paris that I felt like I was becoming Parisian. Place de la Republique was a beautiful plaza, other than the grafitti that covered the central statue (protests from the Charlie Hebdo attack) and the pavilion which was accidentally set on fire a few months earlier. The Plaza is the largest pedestrian street in Paris, and was created by transforming a huge boulevard into the public plaza it is today. It was amazing experiencing Paris just by meandering randomly in the city. 

First few days in Paris, just walking around and touring the museums and seeing the old city walls which created the radial city grid which Paris used to form it's road system. These walls also mark the earliest creation of the boulevard.

Facts About The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris

1) Notre Dame is 130 meters long, 48 meters wide, 35 meters high. The rose windows have a diameter of 10 meters. The cathedrals pillars have a diameter of 5 meters.

2) Notre Dame is located on the Paris Island called Ile de la Cite, which concentrated the power attributes of France between the 4th and the 14th century.

3) The world famous cathedral is referred to as: Notre Dame de Paris (“Our Lady of Paris” in French), The Notre Dame Cathedral or sometimes just simple “Notre Dame”.

4) If you want to visit Notre Dame via the Paris metro: Cite station on line 4. Saint Michel station on RER B and C lines.

5) The towers can be visited - April 1st to September 30th, 10am to 6.30pm (June to August, on Saturday, Sunday, 10am to 11pm) - October 1st to March 31st, 10am to 5.30pm. Last access is 45 mn before closure. Closed on January 1st, in May 1st, December 25th.

6) The twin towers go as high as 69 meters (387 steps). The south tower houses the 13 ton Emmanuel bell.

7) The best time to visit the Notre Dame Cathedral is early in the morning, between Tuesday and Friday.

8) Access to the cathedral is open and free of charge every day of the year, during the opening hours.

Old Colloseum in paris which only has a few remnants left from  the previous stadium, but the cage where the beasts are kept still remains. Then we went on a tour to see the remnants of clashes between different architectural styles of building within a same site. I enjoyed viewing all these vestige which give hints to the foundation of what paris was built on. The Notre Dame itself had an interesting evolution of styles and reconstruction , which also influenced it's surroundings. in the 1600s all the buildings near the Notre Dame had to be removed because of a huge reconstruction.

During the second week we toured palaces and gallery spaces with Maggie. It's nice to see that even huge department stores like Lafeyette and Printemps all preserve some historical domes within a highly modern setting. It was said that during world war II, glass pieces of these domes were taken off piece by piece to preserve them, and prevent them from getting damaged by the war. This just shows how much parisians value their historical heritage and  architecture.

On my free time I went to Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye with a few friends, I think tis building is pretty self explanatory for anyone who is enamored with architecture so I'm just going to post a wikipedia quote:


Villa Savoye (French pronunciation: [saˈvwa]) is a modernist villa in Poissy, in the outskirts of Paris, France. It was designed by Swiss architects Le Corbusier and his cousin, Pierre Jeanneret, and built between 1928 and 1931 using reinforced concrete.[3][4]
A manifesto of Le Corbusier’s “five points” of new architecture, the villa is representative of the bases of modern architecture, and is one of the most easily recognizable and renowned examples of the International style.
The house was originally built as a country retreat on behest of the Savoye family. After being purchased by the neighbouring school it passed on to be property of the French state in 1958, and after surviving several plans of demolition, it was designated as an official French historical monument in 1965 (a rare occurrence, as Le Corbusier was still living at the time). It was thoroughly renovated from 1985 to 1997, and under the care of the Centre des monuments nationaux, the refurbished house is now open to visitors year-round.[5][6]

The villa is located near a train stop called poissy which is about 1 hour away from paris, and another 20 minute walk to the pavilion itself. My favorite part of the villa, other than le corb's 5 points of architecture, is the different lighting conditions that corb uses: from the shades of the mullion, ribbon windows, and sky lights from light tunnels. I shamelessly referenced some of these lighting conditions in my past studio projects.

mullion lighting reference  shameless I know

mullion lighting reference

shameless I know

Mini Model of the building

More of Parc De Bercy, National French Library, Courle Verte, Centre de Pompidou, French Parliament and Notre dame de Paris. We had to to a project on  a chosen space in Paris, and we chose the National French Library as a site for our project. The project was presented in the FRAC center at Orleans, which is also a nice building built by Jakob Macfarlane 

Our 3 day charrette  :

A1 Final 06052015-01.jpg

Delineating the activities and movements around the Bercy Area


Different levels of perception through the design of the bridge

Our final video experiments with the repetitive play of stratification and constant moving, utilizing sounds of the bridge and river la seine. Resulting in a mesmerizing video which allows for infinite variations and sound combinations.  


Mini Boat trip to London

Ghery's Louis Vuitton Center  Ghery once said at a year end party " All our project are known for building below the budget or on budget. Except for one project............



The Louis Vuitton Center...



... (Long pause and silence from the crowd)



Because there was no budget!




During the last week of our program we went on a field trip to Marseilles, which included a large consumption of Rose ( rose wine). Alex ordered more than 10 bottles of rose for 12 of us, and got all of us really drunk the first day in Marseilles. My friend ended up throwing up the whole night after the first day because of mass rose intoxication. We visited Le Corbusier's Unite de Habitat the second day of the trip, and to the Calanques on the third day of the trip. The water was colder than I thought at the calanques, but it was too hot and tempting for me to not jump down and enjoy the clear water. It was also the first time in my life I jumped down a 15 ft cliff. Our last day was a free half a day, so I just ended up buying souvenirs for my family which I later found out costed 4 times the original price in Taiwan.

Last few days spent on revisiting some old projects, and also touring the international housing of paris which has many houses dedicated for different countries and design styles. Le corb's building there shows hints of unite de habitation, thinking of a house a boat, raised above ground level to create airflow. 

Anyways enough of all the architectural talk, this summer program has been a memorable experience for me. I wish I could write more in detail, take better pictures, and do more research on everything I saw before posting this blog but I have a lot more to post so I decided not to dwell on making this blog perfect, but more as a record of my trip in Paris. 

I hope people who have the patience to read  and look through my hastily put together blog will like it, and sorry for all the grammatical errors and typos! I'm really excited to share more about my euro trip which will probably be split into 4-5 different blog posts. 

I would definitely recommend people at Penn to take this summer program if they have the chance. Lots to see and experience, the assignments and readings we had, gave us more insights and historical knowledge about the city of Paris. Aside from the assignments, you get a chance to become a Parisian for a month! Which is an invaluable experience you may never get by travelling or backpacking. Thanks Annette for putting together this program~

and to whoever is bored enough to read all this

Thanks for your time~


Ian Liu 10.24.2015 2 A.M ( at Hooke Park Architecture Association)

Staying up for no reason.