Monday, December 1, 2008

Guimard's Cabinet in Gueliz


Widening the scope to examine the place where Guimard's Art Nouveau cabinet stands, we find ourselves in the cosmopolitan burrow of Marrakech known as Gueliz.  Stepping out from the cool blues and shaded gardens of the Jardin Majorelle into the warm reds and sun soaked boulevards of Gueliz is a shock to the senses.  As with many other aspects of this city, the stark contrast between Majorelle's property and the surrounding burrow acts to stimulate our experience and define the physical, spiritual and cultural boundaries which give meaning and order to a place.  

Known to many as "la quartier rose", Gueliz is a composition of earthy pink facades crisply outlined by blue skies.  Cafes, luxury boutiques and Art Deco architecture remind us of Morocco's French colonial history and this high level of European saturation is precisely what drew Majorelle to Gueliz in the first place.  An artist with a social agenda, Majorelle loved Gueliz's broad sweeping boulevards where he could promenade and be seen fraternizing with the French elite at corner cafes. Gueliz offered a comforting home away from home for Majorelle, who celebrated Moroccan culture and maintained ties to France in true ex-patriot fashion.  

This creative practice of contrasting culture and design defines Jaques Majorelle, his art, his residence, his burrow and the recent Art Nouveau exhibit at the Jardin Majorelle, where Islamic and European aesthetics come together.  

Similar place:
Colorful, lively, eclectic and influenced by French culture; the city of New Orleans and Marrakech share an enthusiasm for life, interaction and contrast.  Although the French architectural periods represented in these cities are different, the overwhelming focus on balconies and shaded courtyards remains the same.  These are street cities--where warm nights draw neighbors outside into shared spaces and parties flood onto the sidewalks.  Here history and modernity shine bright in environments where people celebrate contrast.  

Contrasting place:
Kensington, England is a puckered place defined by vertical Victorian row houses and narrow sidewalks.  Although the warm hue of red brick mimics the pink facades of Marrakech, Kensington possesses a very different feel.  Shoppers of Kensington's high street boutiques bustle about, preferring to stay off the sidewalks.  England's climate, size and economic history dictate a very closed, tight and insular architecture, which dictates an introverted aesthetic and results in less public interaction compared to Marrakech. 

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