Few cities can approach the quality and number of Paris's distinguished buildings and streetscapes. But if you go there to find those treasures, you'll miss most of them if you lack a good guidebook. Michel Poisson is a Parisian architect who spent the last several years sketching the city's buildings and urban spaces, locating them on maps of his own devising, and providing the requisite data and commentary.
His book is organized by arrondissements, the city's traditionally defined districts, and each entry includes a short building description or comment, a freehand drawing, an address, date, and the names of the closest metro station, the architect, and the patron. The last is a nice touch usually lacking in architectural guides. Nor is that the only unusual element of this book, which is as singular as a Citroën deux chevaux. It is larger and heavier than a normal guidebook--6.5 inches by 9.5 inches, 464 pages, and about 3 pounds--which may limit its portability on the field. The hand-drawn maps are a bit funky, and the illustrations vary from rich and full of character when showing older buildings to simplistic and inexpressive in the case of some newer projects.
Still, it's an amazing effort for one person: 200 maps, 535 entries, 650 drawings, and all the research and prose that goes with them. Poisson is a savvy urban explorer, and he steers readers not only to obvious sights such as the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Centre Pompidou, and Notre-Dame but also to scores of old and new places that you might never find on your own. And while it's easy to get disoriented in this complex city, you won't lose your place in the book--it thoughtfully features a bound-in red ribbon bookmark. --John Pastier
Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French