29 avenue Rapp is one of my favorite buildings in Paris. How lucky I am to live right around the corner from it and pass it nearly every day when I’m out and about. It’s one of those building though, no matter how many times you see it, that still catches your eye and makes you wonder….
And wonder I have until today when, after years of wondering, I decided to find out the 411 on this whimsical piece of eye-candy.
It turns out to be the masterpiece of Jules Aimé Lavirotte, a famous French architect who, working in the early 1900s, designed nine (still standing) buildings in Paris, most of them in the 7ème arrondissement. Obviously he was a master of art nouveau. All of his buildings feature natural but stylized forms, arcs, oval and parabolas, wood, metal, glass, ceramics—mythical and ordinary creatures, realistic but abstract and unexpected.
29 avenue Rapp has all of the above and more. Lavirotte designed this madly decorated facade in 1901 along with his pal Alexandre Bigot, a ceramist. Together, and with the aid of Jean-Baptist Larrivé, a sculptor, this outrageously extravagant building came to life.
And one hundred and twelve years later, it is still teeming with life. The lavish entrance watches the avenue with two huge bug eyes, while a bust of a maiden with an animal pelt wrapped around her neck looks on. The green ceramic, oval windows, and balconies pulse. The shiny bronze lizards scamper and the wooden door sighs. This building has a rhythm—it’s hard to define—you must see it to feel it.
So the next time you are on your way to the Eiffel Tower, take a 10-minute detour and experience 29 avenue Rapp.