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Lynn Deasy is a freelance writer, author, foodie, and garden tinkerer. She lives in a 600 year old house in southern France with her husband, Christophe. Currently, she is looking for a literary agent for her memoir CA VA? STORIES FROM RURAL LIFE IN SOUTHERN FRANCE which examines the oddities of French provincial living from an outsider’s point of view through a series of adventures that provide more than a fair share of frustration, education, admiration, and blisters…. yes, lots and lots of blisters. Lynn blogs every Monday, Wednesday, and sometimes Friday.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Montpellier’s new hôtel de ville

Last weekend we traveled to Montpellier for a wedding.  Since all wedding are required to first be civil, it was held in the new hôtel de ville or city hall.  Designed by the most celebrated architect in France, Jean Nouvel and collaborator, François Fontès it opened in November 2011.  It is known as the “blue cube” and symbolisms the city growth east towards the Mediterranean Sea.

Seeing the building itself its, well, a bit shocking.  It’s dark, blocky, and seems to lack the grace of someone of city’s other buildings. It’s part of a 9 hectare project that is to include a 10 acre public park filled with walking and biking paths and 6,000 square feet for stores and cafés.  Currently, the building stands alone and the surrounding work is still under construction so it has a stark, cold look.  This is amplified after passing old buildings sitting behind well-developed plantain trees.  But, I’ve got to admit, my opinions of it changed once inside.  Its cement, glass, and stone elements appeared unburdened by their weight and opened up to large terraces over flowing water.  It transcended its square form by mingling open air passages that zig-zagged across the space.  I no longer felt I was in an ancient city in Southern France, but suddenly felt a ping of homesickness as it reminded me of the overpowering feeling a skyscraper in Chicago can give me; the rush of air, the view, the heights in which we can build and create and move past what we think something is and what something can truly be.

A wedding is a union of two people, sometimes quite different from one another, but a promise to stick together, make things work, and build a future together.  Montpellier’s new hôtel de ville must have taken a page out of that book because it delivers on all those promises. It is built to work with the old architecture, grow with the city, and meet the needs of its citizens.  It represents a marriage in all what it should be, and for that I truly enjoyed it.

Two views from an outdoor terrance.

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