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Angels in the Architecture

Fourteen years ago in June, Richard and I honeymooned in this city, on our way to getting married on the island of Crete.  We did everything backwards: first bought a place together, then moved in, then had a honeymoon, then got married, and now we date.

Anyway, our time in Paris in 1997 coincided with a tour co-led by our friend Phil Cousineau, and a new (then) friend, the architect Tony Lawlor.  Tony helped open our eyes to Paris above the first floor.


Normally in Paris, one walks with eyes toward the sidewalk, because the 2.5 million Parisians are so delinquent about cleaning up after their six billion or so dogs.

But Tony urged us to look up, regardless of the consequences, because so much of the soul of architecture was in the embellishments, the flourishes, the frou-frou elegance and sometimes downright silliness.  It's always the human touches that liven up the essential utility of the spaces we build to protect us from the elements.

So this Paris Play (number 60!) is a salute to our friend Tony, with a shout-out to Paul Simon, who wrote these delightful lyrics that Richard still sings every time he points his camera upward:

He looks around, around
He sees angels in the architecture
Spinning in infinity
He says Amen and Hallelujah!



















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Reader Comments (18)

WOW. Great photos and writing about what is living in the stones of Paris. Thanks for your kind mentions of my work, honored, humbled, grateful! What I love about seeing these angels in the architecture is the stories of the human journey they express. Behind the forms, the patterns of the soul moved through its mythic stages to shape the raw materials of nature into the marvelous city of Paris. While Paris is a rock star in this area, every town has its angels hovering in the buildings, gazing upon our daily dramas and comedies. I encourage your readers to look upward wherever they live and discover these allies cheering on our way. Also, people may be interested in my blog, Dwelling Here Now http://dwellingherenow.blogspot.com/ Thanks again, dear friends Richard and Kaaren, for sharing the angels you've found.

Sunday, November 20, 2011 at 2:31 | Unregistered CommenterAnthony Lawlor

I'm always looking up, but not in the optimistic sense. In Paris and other cities with extreme overhead embellishments, I need a captain to steer me away from pitfalls--open manhole covers, piles of dog poop, and the ever-present busy intersection. I loved tihs installation of PARIS PLAY, because I could relate...and see these things without even having to get up! hahahahaha

Sunday, November 20, 2011 at 14:54 | Unregistered CommenterKate McClure


We say "Amen and Hallelujah!" to your comments and to you. You were one of our angels during the Paris stretch of our honeymoon. You inspired then and you inspire still.

Much love,

Kaaren & Richard

Sunday, November 20, 2011 at 18:01 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren & Richard

Hi Kate,

Yeah, we all need guides when there is so much to see. Best to explore a city like Paris with a partner, and take turns looking up. Or else, if alone, stop and look around, go and look down. (And the traffic lights here confuse out-of-towners, since they’re divided into two per crossing. Foreigners sometimes see the wrong one and get mowed down by buses.)

Thank you for your appreciation!


Kaaren & Richard

Sunday, November 20, 2011 at 18:29 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren & Richard

Amen and Hallelujah -- for this week's journal entry and for leaving that Paul Simon song in my head. What wonderful images -- my favorites are the octopus, the green (copper?) statues (saints?) with the angel at their feet, and the mother tending to her infant while her small child plays with the horse beside her. Loved hearing about how you are now dating, after setting up a home together and getting married (although Paris might be the "real" home you prepared to nest in all along). Lovely! Thank you for sharing so much.

Sunday, November 20, 2011 at 20:58 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer Genest

Dear Jennifer,

Thank you so much from both of us! I just realized from your comment that the sculpture of the mother with infant and horse is ESPECIALLY for you. Do we know of another young mother who has such deep feeling for horses (in both life and her writing) as you? We don't think so.

Those angelic copper saints are on the front of Notre Dame. And I like that octopus too.

Oh, we do believe you are right about our "real home." And we think dates should continue long past the wedding.

I hope that anyone who reads this sends Jennifer a powerful prayer as she writes the final chapters of her novel-- before December 1, 2011.

Love and gratitude,

Kaaren & Richard

Sunday, November 20, 2011 at 21:43 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren & Richard

Great photographs of beauty that we would never get to see (or if we did, really look at), but for you showing us! "..Look up, regardless oft the consequences." I love that. I believe I will take in more during my next city walk. In fact, I should take a city walk, something I rarely do in L.A. It sure ain't Paris, but if I use my eyes as you do, I'm sure there is a lot to see. Tony's advice is heard around the world!

Monday, November 21, 2011 at 0:03 | Unregistered CommenterDiane Sherry

Great photos of great art. I'd love to know more about them. Who's the curly haired guy with the long nose and moustache? Also, the African bust is great. Any idea who sculpted some of them? Tell me more!

Monday, November 21, 2011 at 2:07 | Unregistered CommenterRuth Lansford

What's touching and also irritating about human beings is our "I am" nature -- "here I am!" "I'm here!" "Do you see me??"

Think of the art we would have missed out on, had our ancestors had tweets.

Monday, November 21, 2011 at 14:32 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

Kaaren & Richard,
If I ever get married again, perhaps "we'll" try the reverse order of things, as you and Richard did. There's a true story on the news lately about a newlywed couple. The woman is in her 90's and he's in his 80's. I believe I may be mature enough for a lifetime committment by then.

If my eyes had salivary glands, I'd be drooling at these photos. What eye candy.

It sounds tricky, looking up, while watching out for what you're stepping into. There may be a life principle in there. This looking up theme reminds me of a very challenging time I went through, during which I developed a strong relationship with nature's medicine, and learned to fully receive the support it offered. At that time, I was taking my walks with my head bowed, feeling somewhat helpless and defeated. The hummingbirds wouldn't have it. They'd frequently startle me by hovering helicopter-like at heart level, catch my attention, then zip vertically, straight up into the sky. My eyes would naturally follow and I'd feel instantly uplifted. That was just the beginning of my animal totem education 101. Now, I see how all of nature informs and supports me.

I do watch where I step. Journaling makes a big difference, as this assists me in making wise choices that lead to peace, while appreciating the beauty.


Monday, November 21, 2011 at 15:19 | Unregistered CommenterMarguerite Baca

Thank you Kaaren and Richard for the lovely reminder that Paris is still "looking up." And for those who have learned the urban art of looking up in awe while avoiding what is down and dirty, I recommend Leonard Pitt's book on Paris--"Walks Through Lost Paris." When you walk through Paris with Lenny, you understand the price that was paid to create the Paris we adore today--Baron Haussmann's Paris. And in many cases that "lost Paris"-- the tearing down of surviving Medieval and Renaissance architecture and all the charm and magic of its meandering little streets-- was a heavy price indeed. Luckily for all of us, Napoleon III and Haussmann were aesthetic men with vision, and so the "new" Paris is grand and elegant. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of architectural Paris, for me, is how the old Paris, with its ornamental angels and, I might add, demons, and the (relatively) new Paris, both caught by Richard's camera, blend into one extraordinary visual and emotional reality. L. John Harris

Monday, November 21, 2011 at 17:18 | Unregistered CommenterL. John Harris

Dear Kaaren and Richard ~

Wonderful! I can't stop looking at these... there is such mystery here, and beauty (and some whimsy via the Dog Club for modern balance :)). I'm most intrigued by the possibilities of the stories behind these images: what are we to make of the lovely long-tressed maiden holding a mirror (?) to the sky? Or the leaf-headed youth imploring us with his numbers 13-15? Or the astonishing sight of Michelangelo's magnificent dying slave embedded in an apartment building?!? The medusa (who appears equally surprised and distressed as she is terrifying) is especially timely... it's an image I've been working with in my novel-in-progress. Thank you for the inspiration! And for sharing your wonderful words and images.

And, yes, I, too, love it that you've done things "backwards" in your courtship! May you continue to fall in love - with one another and with the city in which you've found your true nest. ♥

Sending you both love!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011 at 19:51 | Unregistered Commenterdawna

Thank you, Diane. Yes, it's true, there's a lot to see in L.A. too. I just could never bring myself to drive to it. Oh, the joys of this pedestrian metropolis.


Richard (and Kaaren)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011 at 18:00 | Registered CommenterKaaren Kitchell & Richard Beban

Dear, Dear Ruth:

Mr. Moustache and some friends are on the first floor courtyard of a private office building in the Marais, that was built as a private home (hotel particular) in the 17th century or so. I snuck in to get that grab shot.

The African woman (and the veiled woman) are both close-ups from a single bas relief on the side of the Museum of Man (and woman, thank you) at the Trocadero. There are a number of bas reliefs by different artists, and, we'll post more of them as illustrations in the weeks to come.

I think Derek Jones would be willing to put some bas reliefs on the sides of the new buildings he's planning for Playa del Rey. I found him quite charming, amenable, and a fan of art.

Big hugs to you and Bill,

--Richard (and Kaaren)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011 at 18:24 | Unregistered CommenterRichard Beban

Anna Dear!

At least humans include their animal friends, from the caves at Lascaux to the neon of Paris.


--Richard (and Kaaren)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011 at 18:26 | Unregistered CommenterRichard Beban


What more to say than thank you, and how much we ALWAYS find your comments deep and trenchant?

Hugs and uplifted eyes,

--Richard (and Kaaren)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011 at 18:28 | Unregistered CommenterRichard Beban

Hi, John:

Yes, we have Leonard Pitt's book AND its sequel. Both wonderful.

Things DO disappear quickly here. Much of the wall art I love to photograph is gone within weeks, which is one reason I'm out as often as I am, and try to get back to my favorite places at least every few weeks.

Much of the art I photographed for this post has been and will be up for a while, because it's generations old (thus "official," or "legitimate"). The new stuff that disappears so quickly is considered graffiti and is pretty much built for impermanence anyway. I snuck in some aliens above, which are based on the old video game, Space Invaders. The artist of those, Invader, began his work about fifteen years ago in Paris, has gone around the world with it, and is back plastering a new generation of mosaics.

--Richard (and Kaaren)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011 at 18:42 | Unregistered CommenterRichard Beban

Hi Dawna!

The woman with the hand mirror is on the side of the Palais du Justice, in an alcove overlooking the Seine. When I first saw her, I imagined she was a '70s homage to the Chinese ping pong team that helped bring Chinese culture to the world, but that's just my fantasy.

The faux Michelangelo is one of about a dozen or so that ring the top of another palace of justice, the police station in the 12th arrondissement, near the Bastille. The police station takes up at least the first floor, maybe the whole building, who knows? Imagine either of those pieces of art decorating an American police station.

Mr. Numbers has a brother, a mirror image, on the same side of the same apartment building in the Belleville district, directing us to numbers 15-17. And the Gorgon is near our friend Edith's apartment on the rue du Dragon in the 6th. I liked the Gorgon so much he's my Facebook profile picture du jour.

I leave it to writers like yourself to invent the stories behind these images. Glad they are serving as inspiration.

Many hugs,

--Richard (and Kaaren)

p.s. Last night's date was to hear a Japanese bamboo flautist and his accordion-playing accompanist at our favorite local Lebanese restaurant (a ten-minute walk). The dating part of this marriage is great fun, even more so in this city.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011 at 18:59 | Unregistered CommenterRichard Beban

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