Anyone who knows me to some small degree knows that if I could declare a love affair with a place it would be Paris. Consider that opener a declarative admission because it’s entirely true. Once settled into our accommodations, walking around the city with my partner, tears of joy stream down my face in appreciation for the ability to travel to a place where it feels as though I am traveling back in time to a past life where the familiarity of Paris keeps calling me back home.
We’re here for two weeks on this trip, and the first week is nearly complete. This post is a rather personal one, and it’s intended to be because I want to share an epiphany of sorts about how coming to Paris pushes my life forward into the future by persuading me to come to terms with the past and to fuse together all parts into one. Heady stuff for a vacation, but it’s Paris, a place of heady stuff: culture, cuisine, commerce, and couture.
The epiphany relates to design, another key element to what makes me tick. Largely self-taught, I’m a steady student, looking for any opportunity to keep learning. You’d think that when I come to Paris, Coco Chanel, Jeanne Lanvin, Madeleine Vionnet, Jean Paul Gautier, and other luminary Parisian fashion designers would be my main influencers. On most days it would be true.
But this trip to Paris, we’ve been studying the architecture of Paris, and the result of this intensive approach has lead to a sudden intuitive leap of personal understanding.
Let me share it with you. Two architects in particular have done more to advance modern architecture and used Paris as their sandbox. Hector Guimard and Le Corbusier completely transformed the way buildings were constructed in the 20th century and what I learned about their approaches to design has so much in common with my approach to design – only they designed structures, and I help to improve people’s personal structures, you might say.
Guimard is known as the man who brought the Art Nouveau style to architecture in France, particularly in Paris’ upscale 16th arrondissement starting before World War I. What was so wonderful about his design work was that he designed not just the exterior of the buildings, but every detail of the interiors as well. In fact, because he wanted apartment buildings to be unique, he would ensure each unit had it’s own special layout so no two in one building were exactly alike. Even post World War I, when prosperity and resources had diminished, Guimard stayed true to his concept redefining how Art Nouveau architecture would be created. The net effect on the city of Paris is that when you see curved facades on 20th century built, Haussmann styled architecture, a nod is owed to Guimard for having brought about this changed aesthetic.
The Swiss born Le Courbusier [a name he adopted] took the same approach as Guimard, but with the result of very different looking structures. Le Corbusier was a minimalist, only incorporating into a structure what it needed to function. Interestingly enough, Le Corbusier was very concerned with his interior spaces as well. Of course, his eponymous home furnishings are legendary. But he also collaborated with a certain cabinetmaker to create bookshelves that would accommodate books of varying sizes. He always ensured ways of bringing natural light into every space, had metal and glass cut to exacting specifications, and even worked on creating exacting color palettes to maximize the effects of the spaces he designed.
It hit me like a ton of bricks [no pun intended] that Guimard’s and Le Corbusier’s designs – accounting for a structure’s interior and exterior – is just like how I bring balance to my clients’ interiors and exteriors. Just as a home’s interior is its soul, I must be true to my clients’ interiors to be true to their facades. By respecting this client trust, my design integrity is maintained. Now I’m not running through Paris fancying myself a Guimard or a Le Corbusier. But studying their challenges and successes inspire me to keep working at this level of thinking, feeling, and sensing. It all worked for Guimard and Le Courbusier to the benefit of their clients, and it seems to be working for mine.
Designing and managing your image is the secret science of your success.
Joseph Rosenfeld helps professional men and corporate workgroups create effective visual brands. Visit JosephRosenfeld.com for details.