Vol. 34: European Advertising Columns (Paris)

After enjoying the panorama over the streets of Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower, I went to look around the souvenir shop. Intending to buy a miniature model of the tower, I asked the girl in the shop how much one particular example cost. She replied in French so rapid that I couldnft make out what she had said. I asked her again and she eventually wrote down the price on a piece of paper, as if grudging the trouble involved. In most other countries, the sight of a Japanese tourist provokes shopkeepers to make an earnest attempt to sell their goods, often with a bit of elementary Japanese thrown in. But the response in France could scarcely be more different. Arrogance seems to be the preserve not only of President Chirac: it is an aspect of the French national character. I felt more than slightly put out, but at the same time I mused on the fact that it is this pride on the part of the French that enabled them to create this amazing tower. I was entranced by the magic of the form and the way in which a simple steel structure could be transformed into a lofty art work reminiscent of an elegant woman wearing lace gloves and a veil.

As one might expect, the advertising columns were full of refinement and artistic qualities suggestive of France. In combination with the detailed reliefs, the overall proportions of the columns were superb. The columns were designed at the start of the 20th century and had come down to the present together with the old streets of the city. A single advertising column helps to give Paris its distinctive quality, and the image of the city itself would not be the same without these columns. This goes to show the extent to which advertising columns have been perfected to become essential features of the Parisian cityscape.

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