A Paris Palette

 I was walking down Rue Jacob on my way to the Musee D'Orsay yesterday to prepare for my workshop lecture, and once again it it struck me that Paris is a remarkably visually harmonious city.

I know this harmony is not by chance. From the 1600's on, Paris has developed from the top down according to the taste of kings and presidents, rather than grown chaotically from the bottom up, like most urban areas around the world.

A design for the Place Royal from the 1600's

Yet every time I visit Paris, I am surprised again by its dignified beauty. As I was walking along yesterday, I found myself looking not at the grand vista, but at details I was seeing right around me, and thinking about how repeated colors form a palette for the city that contributes so much to its harmony.

First I noticed that Paris is a city of non-colors: white, black, grey and brown, silver and gold:

These neutrals form an elegant and quiet backdrop for the more dramatic players on stage, like blue in all of its varieties from cerulean to violet:

Paris is a city of both parks and of neon, and green plays a smaller but vital role in the city's palette--in plane trees overhead and fallen leaves in the gutter, in a pharmacy sign, or the stall of a bookseller along the Seine.

Accents of red keep the dignified grande dame from being too staid:

And as you are strolling along the boulevard like an optical flaneur, looking for colors over your head and under your feet, you can expect the unexpected--this is Paris, after all!