Two book covers I want to visit.

Luis Barragán’s House & Studio in Mexico City

The locations featured on two book covers have made their way on to a map of places I’d like to visit one day.  The first is the cover of Alain de Botton’s The Architecture of Happiness (2006).  The book features a whimsical photo of a white horse centered against a bright pink wall.  It happens to be the rooftop terrace of the home of late architect Luis Barragán in Mexico City.  When I first saw the cover of the book, I did not imagine the place actually existed.  But as I flipped the book over to inspect the photo credit, I discovered the work of the second ever Pritzker Prize winner and celebrated Mexican architect, Luis Barragán.

Serpentine Public Housing in Pantin, France

I found the second cover while going down a google-rabbit-hole searching for more information on the links between Mike Kelley’s “Educational Complex” and nostalgia.  The search lead me to an article which introduced me to the work of Professor Anthony Vidler (by way of an intriguing phrase: “nostalgia for the homely”).  I landed on one of Vidler’s articles published in Architectural Review: “Troubles in theory Part iv: The social side” (2014).  As I scrolled through the article, I was immediately drawn to the cover of Lefebvre‘s Le Droit à la ville (1968) and was compelled to know the exact location.

Without having a copy of the book in hand, I resorted to searching for the image on google.  But sometimes some things are ungoogleable.  I tweeted to Architectural Review.  But, despite the fact that Twitter is instantaneous, it can also take ages to hear something (if anything at all) back.  I decided to try my luck and emailed Professor Vidler.  He wrote back quickly, ending the mystery.  He informed me that the photo is of the vast “Serpentine” public housing by Émile Aillaud, and that it is located in Pantin, northeast of Paris.  He attached the following photos to his email:

In addition to visiting the rooftop terrace of Luis Barragán’s House in Mexico City and the Serpentine Housing Project in Pantin (just outside of Paris), I’ve also added some other futuristic buildings that French photographer Laurent Kronental revealed in his poetic series, Souvenir d’un Futur (Memory of a Future).  Travel and Leisure further popularized Pantin in an article with a catchy title: “You’ve never heard of Paris’s coolest new neighborhood“.

In closing, my thanks go to Alain de Botton for writing “The Architecture of Happiness” and Vintage International for putting Armando Salas Portugal‘s photo of Luis Barragán’s house on the cover of Botton’s book.  Thanks are also in store for Professor Anthony Vidler for writing me back and introducing me to some of the architectural gems of Paris’s coolest new neighborhood.

The only mystery I am still trying to solve is the artist of the white horse sitting on the wooden block on the roof of Casa Barragán.  But don’t worry!  I’ve tweeted and sent relevant emails to try and track down the artist.

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a curious person still searching for the poem that Nezami Ganjavi wrote about the prince who toured his kingdom only to find crumbling structures, causing him to reflect on the transience of life.

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