One of the most recognized signs in Paris (maybe the design world) are the Metropolitan signs. The Brits refer to their subway systems as the Tube, Chicagoan’s call their entire transit system the “L” (go figure) and the Parisians travel underground via the Métro. Paris’ system hit the rails in 1900 (guess who was first*?).
Architect Hector Guimard was awarded the opportunity to design the station entrances at the turn of the 21st century. Between 1900 and 1912, his company constructed 141 entrances (amazingly 86 still exist today). Today he is hailed as one of the best known designers of the Art Nouveau style. His designs in cast iron embody the AN aesthetic: curving, sinuous lines; floral motifs; abstract and organic forms. It was a short-live design movement sandwiched between the Victorian and historic revivals of the late 19th century and Art Deco
Guimard took advantage of modern materials (iron and glass) to create 5 different entrance types. The most common has flower stem railings with amber-colored lights shaped like flower buds. Each is painted green to resemble patina with a Metropolitan sign in Guimard’s original typeface.
Typical of Parisians, they disapproved of the new signs. They considered the font “un-French” and the color too German. Today they are protected, iconic symbols of the City of Light.
In 2000, at the Palais Royal-Museé du Louvre station, artist Jean-Michel Othoniel created a modern day take on Guimard’s design using aluminum and hand-blown Venetian Murano glass. Although I love new, original art, this one is lost on me. Not my favorite. What do you think of this one-of-a-kind entrance?
(*London’s Tube opened in 1863. Budapest and Glasgow opened in 1896. Boston’s tunnel is the oldest in the US ).