Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sisters doing it for themselves.

I took a trip recently to Chicago, a place that features the best architecture in any American city. I lived there in the 1990s, but it wasn't until this last trip through O'Hare that I learned that Chicago has been Paris' sister city since 1996.

Sometimes it's hard to know exactly what being a sister city does for you.  Good will, sure, and some "cultural exchanges" no doubt. But I found a really fun and tangible connection just south of the Art Institute on Michigan Avenue.  They erected a "Metra" station in the pattern of Hector Guimard's celebrated and fanciful entry ways to the Metropolitain, aka the métro (the existence of which was first introduced to me via a song by 80s new wave band Berlin.)

Guimard's work is quintessential Art Nouveau and in my estimation rates only second behind the Eiffel tower as the defining Parisian public art.  Not all métro stops have his designs- 86 of the 300 - and I marvel each time I see them; a quotidian reminder of why I'm here.  His first designs were unveiled concurrent with the métro itself at the Exposition Universelle in 1900.
Chicago's Metra is a rail system serving the suburbs. From cityofchicago.org, I learned that indeed the entrance was a gift of the Parisian Transit Authority (RATP), and they have been casting replacement parts and additional station entries from the original molds.

Sounds like cities of sisterly love, to me.

1 comment:

  1. do people in chicago walk home with a fresh warm brat with a bite out of it like they do the with the baguettes?

    also, how do weddings in france compare with weddings in chicago? same traditions? different traditions?