One of the many reasons that I love staying in the 7th arrondissement in Paris is that I feel that there is something wonderful, and often unexpected, to discover around every corner. Like the first time I turned a corner and stood face to face with Jules Lavirotte’s outrageous Art Nouveau masterpiece on avenue Rapp, just around the corner from the sweet Kir vacation apartment. Step on the balcony of the Chardonnay Paris rental and you can see the building at the end of the street. This Lavirotte building that will stop you in your tracks!
Paris Fun Travel Tip from Madelyn: This idea reminds me of the Where’s Wally books which our children loved! Head to 29 Ave Rapp and call it a mystery discovery adventure for children and adults. Look carefully to discover the many whimsical details on this building — from the windows above the door that look like Martian’s eyes, to the bison heads which holding up balconies, lizard door handles, fox-headed fur collars, fantastical fish, wonderful curves and shapes, young women and men.
There are several whimsical examples of Parisian Art Nouveau architecture tucked away in quiet spots in the 7th arrondissement. This photographic tour will show you the best Art Nouveau in the 7th, just steps from the Eiffel Tower and the famous rue Cler market street. Strolling through the neighborhoods to see them all would make a pleasant morning or afternoon walk through one of our favorite neighborhoods in Paris.
Square Rapp and Jules Lavirotte
Start out in the peaceful little square Rapp, where you’ll find a pretty Art Nouveau facade at number 3 square Rapp. This is the work of Jules Lavirotte (1864-1928), one of France’s most brilliant and fearless Art Nouveau architects and designers. He was a contemporary of the better known Hector Guimard, but the two architects never worked together. For lovers of Art Nouveau design, Lavirotte’s work represents the most freeform and audacious designs you can find in Paris. He worked very little in Paris, and the best examples of his unique Baroque inspired Art Nouveau are all found in the 7th arrondissement. In square Rapp, notice the complete lack of symmetry in the design of the facade and the elaborate balconies, each one different from the next. It’s hard to know where to look first!
The elaborate main entrance and balconies feature fine stone carving and highly decorative cast iron details. Look at each balcony one by one to see Lavirotte’s creative designs. You’ll even spot a turret built into one floor in the corner!
It’s fun to stop by square Rapp to see its other unusual decorative features. At the end of the wall is a five or six story tall trellis design on the wall of an architectural 3D design. Turn around and take in the full view of the Eiffel Tower just across the street. What a view! Lavirotte also designed the iron gate in the square that encloses his building.
29 avenue Rapp
Just around the corner at 29 avenue Rapp is Jules Lavirotte’s masterpiece. Whether or not you love it or find it shocking, it’s hard not to stop and stare at this outstanding building. Lavirotte designed this wildly decorated facade in 1901 for his friend Alexandre Bigot. A frequent collaborator, Bigot was a talented ceramist and he gave Lavirotte complete freedom with the design for this building. Bigot created the ceramic details himself, working closely with Lavirotte to execute his outrageous and lavish designs, along with the sculptor Jean-Baptiste Larrivé. Read more about the buildings Lavirotte designed in the 7th arrondissement of Paris on Wikipedia.
You’ll need some time to take in all the details, especially around the impressive entrance. It is said that the bust of a woman above the door is a portrait of Lavirotte’s wife, who was also an artist. Look closely and you’ll spot a fox fur wrapped around her neck! Much like an painter signing a canvas, Lavirotte left his signature on his masterpiece on a decorative plate. While his style wasn’t unanimously loved during his lifetime, this building did earn Lavirotte first place in the prestigious Parisian Facade competition of 1901.
12 rue Sédillot
Just off of the rue St-Dominique is another example of the always lively Art Nouveau architecture of Jules Lavirotte. As you stroll along rue St-Dominique, think back to the Countess de Montessuy who lived on this street and who was the first patron to give Lavirotte the chance to work in Paris. The tower over the main entrance is a Medieval inspired touch and just one of the many styles Lavirotte incorporated into his Art Nouveau designs. This is now the Italian Liceo, or School and you’ll enjoy recess time as dozens of chattering Italian children pour outside. Rent the Pauillac Paris vacation rental and you will enjoy studying the facade from your balcony.
The whimsical ironwork around the entrance and ground floor windows is classic Lavirotte. Today his building is home to the Liceo Italiano Leonardo Da Vinci, an Italian high school.
33 rue du Champ-de-Mars
While the 16th arrondissement is home to the largest number of Art Nouveau buildings, one of the masterpieces of this architectural style is tucked into a quiet little street near the Champ de Mars park in the 7th arrondissement. Just a few blocks from the famous market street rue Cler and many of our vacation rental apartments, the facade at 33 rue du Champ-de-Mars is one of the finest Art Nouveau buildings in Paris. Designed by Octave Raquin in 1904, this building earned the nickname “maison des arums,” or the house of the lilies, because of its lavish floral and vegetal designs and decorations.
The main entrance features an arched glass cover supported by detailed cast iron work that is reminiscent of Hector Guimard’s famous entrance covers to the Paris Metro. The other doors on the facade are decorated with glass panels with delicate cast iron climbing vines. Look closely between the ground floor windows and you’ll spot an arum lily motif carved out of stone, just one of the many lilies that earned this building its pretty name.
151 rue de Grenelle
After the extravagance of Jules Lavirotte’s buildings on avenue and square Rapp, you could easily walk right past 151 rue de Grenelle and not notice the architect’s first building in the 7th arrondissement. When you stop and take a closer look, however, much of Lavirotte’s favorite design elements are already on display in this elegant facade from 1899. Take a look at the grand window above the main entrance with its elaborate flower decorations carved in stone. The front door features whimsical ironwork shapes and two very unique door handles – lizards! The one on the left is eating a corn cob while the one on the right, below, looks on eagerly. The lizard was a favorite symbol and appears again and again in the work of Lavirotte.
Art Nouveau treasures like these buildings are found throughout Paris, and we hope you enjoy seeing some of our favorites in the 7th arrondissement. Just keep your eyes looking up as you’re out strolling – another architectural surprise may be just around the next corner!
Photo Credits: Laura Thayer