Lavirotte Building & Square Rapp
The Lavirotte Building is an Art Nouveau masterpiece, dripping in sculptural detail, fine ceramics and sexy connotations and if that isn’t enough to seduce you, door lovers beware, the Lavirotte Building has one of the most beautiful doorways in Paris.
A hop, skip and a jump away you can find the often missed pretty and secret Square Rapp that offers a photo opportunity of the Eiffel Tower that will become one of your most cherished souvenirs of Paris.
Lyon born architect Jules Aimé Lavirotte, together with ceramist Alexandre Bigot created this unique and striking apartment building a mere 300 metres from the Eiffel Tower in 1901.
This was not the only building that Lavirotte designed for the 7th arrondissement but certainly his most extravagant.
It is a work of art and also contains some innovative features including double walls with an airlock to provide soundproofing and an early form of reinforced concrete, whereby Lavirotte had the hollow bricks filled with iron and concrete in the same way that Besser Blocks are utilised.
Please click on the image for a larger view and take a moment to admire all the detail.
And you will discover one oval window, defying balance and uniformity and above that, green glazed ceramic columns supplying support and beauty to the almost Gaudiesque balcony and of course, that impressive door.
The sculpture work and ceramics are beautiful and intricate.
Adam and Eve languidly flank the window above the entrance with Lavirotte’s wife at the centre, an animal draped over her shoulder with one claw dangling above the door.
Although the building won the annual contest for the most beautiful building in Paris for this fabulous façade, it had Paris up in arms. They thought it way too sensual and erotic for their liking, even to go as far to claim that the shape of the door resembled an inverted penis!
Whether or not this was the architect’s intention, the attention to detail is extraordinary but some of the elements will have you scratching your head and wondering about the symbolism. Like these two bulls heads.
Closer inspection shows that this corbel, in the form of bulls, support the central balcony.
And another cheeky sexual connotation is this exquisite sculptured door handle. At the time of construction, the word lizard in French was slang for men’s private parts.
Fans of Art Nouveau regard Hector Guimard as the king with his wrought iron, twisted beauties that still adorn Paris metro entrances but Jules Lavirotte definitely stood up to the challenge at a time when the uniform Haussmannian buildings were regarded as monotonous and boring and people wanted something new and exciting, he certainly delivered.
Lavirotte’s work will never be considered boring and his eight remaining buildings in Paris are now all heritage listed.
A mere two doors down from 29 Avenue Rapp is the often missed Square Rapp. It offers another, yet more sober example of Jules Lavirotte’s work, where the man himself once lived at #3 on the 5th floor.
With his trademark, recognisable door design.
Hugging the curve on the dog leg shaped ‘square’ and opposite Jules Lavirotte’s former apartment is this unusual building built between 1912 and 1915 and is the headquarters for the Theosophical Society, the Embassy of Costa Rica, and the Salle Adyar a small theatre that has recently changed its name to the Theatre of the Eiffel Tower and you will see why.
At the end of the square or dead end street is a very small garden with a fountain and elegant black iron gate designed by no other that Jules Lavirotte and from behind this gate is an exquisite view of the Eiffel Tower, flanked by the surrounding buildings of Square Rapp enhanced by ornate balcony balustrading.
While the hoards of tourists are are struggling to get a people free shot of the Eiffel Tower from Place du Trocadéro to no avail, you can stand quietly and smugly, tucked behind the iron gate and snap away until your hearts content and marvel at how many people walk by without a glance at Square Rapp.
It will be our secret.
Paris has many hidden treasures, you just need to know where to find them.
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