Each year, third and fourth-year undergraduate students studying Architectural History at ECA are offered the opportunity to go on a field trip to a major European city, supported by a generous donation from University of Edinburgh alumnus Ben Pentreath. Previous trips have visited Berlin, Rome, and Vienna.

Lucy Gray – currently in her fourth year – reports on the 2019 trip to Paris.

Exploring the streets of Paris during a week of unseasonal sunshine mid-semester was the perfect tonic to the stress of fourth year, not to mention the wide range of incredible architecture and amazing food and drink that we enjoyed each day.

The trip was expertly led by two of ECA’s team of architectural historians, Dr Peter Clericuzio and John Lowrey, as well as Dr Clarisse Godard Desmarest of the Université de Picardie Jules Verne. It was chronologically very thorough. We began on the first day at the seventeenth century Hôtel de Lauzun, and finished the trip on the final day with Frank Gehry’s sleek Louis Vuitton Foundation, completed in 2014. We toured the spectacularly gilt en filade suite of rooms facing the Seine in the former, in stark contrast with the light, bright, sail-like forms of the latter.

This contrast continued with the other highlights of the trip, including the Ecole des Beaux Artes, Le Corbusier’s Villa la Roche, the Palais Garnier, and Hector Guimard’s apartment buildings. Despite being a small group, in architectural taste we were diverse, and our lunch and dinner stops were filled with debate about our preferred buildings over incredible coffee, wine, and French food.

Our final afternoon was spent in the blissful Cité de l'Architecture – an architectural heaven filled with hundreds of incredible plaster casts and architectural models. A particular delight was a full-scale copy of an apartment from Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation in Marseilles which sparked division in our group: denounced as impractical by some; loved regardless by others.

Having been to Paris previously, I had not anticipated seeing almost a completely different side to the city on this trip, but the sheer range of buildings we saw and getting to go inside so many made it feel almost like a new city. An exhausting but wonderful trip, for which we are grateful to our tour leaders for their efforts, and to Ben Pentreath for his generous support of these trips.


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