Saturday, April 12, 2008


It all started with the lilacs.

As I crossed rue de Vaugirard today, heading to the Fnac, the lilacs beckoned to me. I haven't seen many lilacs in the city, so I stopped to snap a picture. Then I took a closer look at the building adjacent to the yard where lilacs in the backyard bloom'd.

The shopworn facade and the posture of the building had such dignity and presence; they seemed so rich with history. Sometimes, old buildings just seem to talk, yearning to tell their stories to curious passersby who pause to admire the stone or wonder at the bas-relief. Although now somewhat neglected in appearance, the structure seemed to have a compelling history.

Doing a bit of research, I found out that this building does indeed have a rich cultural past. It was the home since the 1920s to the prestigious Ecole Louis Lumière, and alma mater to many famous photographers and filmmakers. It is fondly remembered by its alumni as simply "Vaugirard."

The Ecole Louis Lumière moved, bit by bit, from this building to other locations, then finally to a fancy modern structure outside Paris in 1985.

As an urban dweller I always wish that the stones of city dwellings could speak and tell their early stories. Now I'll know about this one at least, each time I pass by.

And it all began, today, with a glimpse of some blooming lilacs.


materfamilias said...

A lovely way to give us a little bit of Paris history. I'm impressed that lilacs are blooming there already, as mine will be at least several more weeks, perhaps another month.

Anonymous said...

Lovely, story and you took time to research before writing. Thanks so much. I share your fascination with old often abandoned buildings.. so sad and yet so intriguing to think what might have happened there. I so long for Paris and this is such a special treat. I shall google it and read more.


Polly-Vous Francais said...

I love lilacs, and am so happy I was drawn to them.

There was an interesting video I found on google -- interviews with alumni who had studied here -- but all in French, so I didn't include it in the post. But I like to imagine Louis Lumiere inside teaching his students about the new art called cinematography.

It now seems to be used part time at least to give classes in picture-framing. And there is an unfortunate (ugly) modern building added to the back, a neighborhood community center.

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