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Hidden Paris: Square de Montsouris

On our way towards Parc Montsouris and Cité U recently, F and I traversed avenue Reille into a small street just off the Réservoirs de Montsouris. We entered what could only be described as the most beautiful Parisian countryside. Don’t get me wrong; there are other charming places within Paris, including Villa Santos-Dumont and the Thermopyles, but neither rivalled the exquisite Square de Montsouris. (We’ll explore the few other luscious streets nearby another time.)

Square de Montsouris

Square de Montsouris

Thanks to an information leaflet at the gate of No 40 (full text here, but in French), we know that this street of 207m was developped back in the 1920-30, to consist of individual pavilions which could be build to the whims and fancies of the owner and the architects, yet at the same time, 28 low-cost houses – definitely not low-cost anymore today! – were also to be constructed, in red and ochre bricks. Together, the varied architectural styles and elements, the quaint cobblestone, and the lush vegetation transform this picturesque street into an amazing countryside haven. It is therefore unsurprising that the entire street is listed as classified and protected heritage site.

Square de Montsouris

Square de Montsouris

Square de Montsouris

Square de Montsouris

While the majority of the villas here were the works of the architect Jacques Bonnier, a handful few others read like a list of Who’s Who in Architecture: No 2 was built by Auguste Perret – pioneer of reinforced concrete and whose firm hired Le Corbusier when he first came to Paris – for Pierre Gault (actually, No 2 was initially assigned to Le Corbusier), No 6 and 40 were the works of Gilles Buisson of which the latter, an eccletic half-timbered house, was even the home of the architect himself before subsequently occupied by Madame Marceron, then her daughter, married to sculptor Claude Bouscau, with her family; No 42 by J Déchelette; No 51 (officially on 53 avenue Reille) by Le Corbusier for his cubist artist friend Amédée Ozenfant.

Square de Montsouris

Square de Montsouris

Square de Montsouris

Square de Montsouris

By now, you would have noticed that some of the residents are no random-nobody: Claude Bouscau and Amédée Ozenfant aside, No 3 was the home to Japanese painter Tsugouharu Foujita, Expressionist painter Chaïm Soutine at No 35, a few doors down at No 41 lived another painter Camille Liausu, painter and graveur Fernand and Claude Hertenberger at No 44-46 across the street, painter and stained-glass artist Roger Bissière (and his summer 1933 tenant, painter Nicolas Wacker) in a house consulted by Perret (I couldn’t ascertain which one), painter Jean Chapin (very likely at No 4)… One theory for such a flocking here by the artistic community stems from the popularity of the nearby Montparnasse as the intellectual centre in Paris during Les Années Folles, supplanting Montmartre in the process. And oh, quite a few names here were also linked to the infamous Ms Joséphine Baker!

Square de Montsouris

Square de Montsouris

Square de Montsouris

Square de Montsouris

I hereby conclude our little visit here, and hope I haven’t got anyone too confused by narrating in ascending house number yet the path F and I took meant the photos were shot in the descending order. I could have place the photos differently, but then it wouldn’t have reflected the slight continuation of our walk to Cité U. At this time of the year, if there’s one thing that I hold dear memory of from the time I lived here, it would be the cherry blossoms in our courtyard, to which I had a view of from my third-floor studio window. Now, I could only photograph it from the ground… Here’s a shot I couldn’t resist sharing ;)

Cité U

As an aside: I used to assume Montsouris to be a reference to a “mount of mice” and given the principal park was the site that comprised of a former stone quarry, an abandoned mine, part of the catacomb network, and the circular Parisian railway line La Petite Ceinture, it is easy to imagine colonisations by these little creatures to give rise to its name. Not quite so. According to the Mairie de Paris, it humbly originated from a common name – Moque Souris – to refer to decaying mills of the Bièvre (another interesting story to tell here another time!) and essentially mock the rodents for failing to find grains for food. Overtime, the name transformed into Montsouris.



Category: Paris

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2 scribbles & notes

  1. med says:

    Get a unit there soon lil? ;)

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