FINDING HOME IS LIKE LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT Public Realm in Paris and New York City
Written by Haeun Wi For Mark Moreno, ARCH 370 10.11.18
FINDING HOME IS LIKE LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT
My phone started acting up since our Europe tour began throughout the visits from Greece to Italy. I couldn’t find a proper Apple store to get my phone screen repaired in an isolated island and small neighborhoods. To be franker, I admit that I waited until the last minute to go fix the phone when we finally arrived in Paris, France. My phone started flickering and showing a mixture of a colorful and a blurry display when it was in the last few days to tour in Tuscany, Italy. This was when I started feeling more urgent. But when we finally arrived in France Paris, I knew that it was going to be a real “opportunity” for me to go get the phone fixed. It just felt like the right time and the right place to do it. It was Thursday night when we arrived in Paris, France. Then, on the next day, we had our first class in Paris. My classmates, professors, and I walked to a park, Square Jean XXIII that is located right next to the Notre dame Cathedral. We were getting ready to start our “daily routine” for the Europe tour. Everything seemed very fresh and new. The scale and the distance of the architecture seemed very different. Our professor, von Maur gave us a brief moment to pray in silence. Then, he announced that after another prayer we will be having 1-hour break for lunch and meet at the listed meeting spot to start our official class for the day. I started imagining that I should use that lunch break to go to the Apple store and repair my damaged phone. I was overwhelmed by the idea of finally having a normally functioning phone. But I was unsure if he will give me a mercy-time to go the Apple store. However, I knew that if I gave professor von Maur a cogent reason why I might be risking being late to our very first class in the greatest city in Europe, the Paris, he will give me a cheerful approval. Of course, that was what I desired. I knew that von Maur would not be happy with any of his students missing or risking being absent to any of his class. But it was a valid reason for me to truly save the memories in the city of Paris… having a properly working smart phone that works just fine to capture unique architectures. So, I cheerfully but shyly approached to him and started a word. “Professor, as you know, my phone has been acting up since our tour in Greece. I was wondering if you would be ok if I risk the beginning of our first class after lunch for going to the nearest Apple store to fix my phone?”, I said, indicating with my finger on a poor broken screen how “close” the Apple store is from where we were and how I could make the trip work on time but how I could also risk. “Is it an urgent problem?”, then professor von Maur answered immediately with unreadable face and a furious emotion blended together. Clearly, he did not think this was an absolute valid reason why I should risk 1 or 2 hours or even hours to our first class in Paris. But he kindly answered with a hesitation, “Alright.”, with no facial expression. Conceivably, might have agreed with me because I might have looked like one of his few filthy looking students that has never been to Paris before and
FINDING HOME IS LIKE LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT wants to get something out of the trip in every possible way. For no reason, I instantly felt bad for leaving all of my classmates behind and the professor that was very excited to share the greatest city he has been travelling for this class for the last 16 years. I felt bad for what I have done but I also felt free. I started preparing myself on how to get there and how I should manage the time to make things all accordingly to the class schedules. And I could not hide my big smile with the white teeth showing a surge of excitement that I could not hide. Then, I went through this ironic doubt, “how am I going to find the directions?”, “am I going to get lost if my phone turns off by itself out of blue?”. They were quite a chance might have gotten into. After the prayer, I opened my eyes and I started seeing a different path from all of my classmates in a separate world. All of my friends started searching for restaurants to go near where we were which, I had long coveted to walk around Notre dame Cathedral since the class of History of Architecture I took three years ago at this time. Regardless, I started looking up on the nearest Apple Store, making sure that it is a “walkable” distance. I started saying farewells to my friends, Ashlen and Faith explaining that I will not be able to come with them to the lunch and that I might be late to our first class.
Pont Neuf Bridge
I looked at my phone searching for the nearest Apple store. Goggle map indicated that the nearest one was 37minutes away from where I was. Because I have gone to the Apple stores quite many times due to my phone damage, especially in back in New York City, I already assumed what will take for me to fix my one and only phone. In U.S Apple stores, we anticipate certain customer services, interiors of the store, and even the color of employees’ shirts. This make us feel like “we are at the Apple Store”. I somehow felt comfortable and relaxed even envisioning something that I know of from where I am from. But I started feeling really discouraged because in New York City, I would get on a subway instead of walking a 37-minute and get to the destination without having to walk. I started panicking. But, I gave myself no other options because I did not want to end up ruining my entire Europe tour without being able to take photos and communicate with my friends and families that are left in faraway across the pacific oceans. I needed to fight against my laziness and fuel my engine to start moving toward the destination. I promised professor that I will not be late if the repairing process at the Apple store was going to ruin my first class in Paris. I started walking along this street, Quai de Montebello that was full of street arts. I often saw them from a movie or a magazine where this beautiful model walks on the street with the most expensive piece of jackets and the boots on the planet. Or often all of these extravagant items are altered with a simple French buttered croissant. I really wanted to stop and take a look on the arts that the Parisians were selling
FINDING HOME IS LIKE LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT but instead I quickly walked and rolled my eyes through the arts. Then, I started seeing these beautiful bridges. I remembered that there were going to be a several bridges during the path to the Apple store thanks to the Google map. Since the Google map is not smart enough yet to specify which bridge is the most iconic, every corner of them I passed by, I hesitated, “should I go across this one or the next one”. Then, I would just decide to pass by them dreaming something bigger. I passed by Parisian people sitting on a grass and enjoying their companionship with their friends and families. I passed bridge by bridge. It was all new to me-alcohols on the streets? Then, finally, I stopped stunned by the landscape I discovered after about two bridges. I hesitantly passed by. It was the view I was looking for. Not that I predicted I was going to see the Pont Neuf Bridge that I learned from the History of Architecture back in Sophomore year, but it was the atmosphere my heart that was seeking for throughout this Europe tour. It was a landscape the river was connected by a big old limestonelike bricks bridge and every building surrounded by it was in our eye-levels that was like a set construction in a movie. People were relaxed, and nobody was anxious to pass by someone slow. I instantly felt like I was on the way home meeting someone special for a luxury date night. Moreover, as I was crossing this bridge I felt positive about this trip; not the walk to the Apple Store that I did not even know where it was exactly located at, but the journey I was going to have for the rest of the week and the weekends. I finally felt like I was in the right track after the trips in Greece and Italy. All the burdens I had in my life was finally taken off my shoulder. I walked even lighter and faster to my final destination, the Apple Store.
Parisian girl on a Parisian Street
When I finally finished crossing the Pont Neuf bridge, I instantly paused. I could not read the road, which direction was which to take according to the map. The map clearly tells me that the Apple store is in the Louvre Museum and it showed me that I was standing right in front of it. Whatsoever, all I saw was nice brick architecture that looked too wide. One thing I remembered and learned from when I first fell in love with New York City is that you walk without fully relying on the map. Sometimes, you find the better path while you are following the intuitive path that make you feel safe. So, I started walking straight Northwest street called Quai Francois Mitterrand. Then I got really paranoid. I could not figure where I was at. I was on a four- way road that was full of stores and restaurants, but it felt very exotic. There was a French girl that looked like a Parisian with a black leather jacket and a cigarette on her hand. I was not sure if I needed her help to get the right direction to the Apple Store. Well, the greatest reason to it was my French skills. I remembered the night before that day, when our class arrived in Paris in the early evening, I somehow, ended up going to get dinner alone, which I, half of the time prefer to do anyway because it is more fun, and I get to experience unique parts of the place. Then I went into this restaurant and asked if they had any
FINDING HOME IS LIKE LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT oysters, murmuring in French from the Google translation I prepared before I walked into that semi hippie and luxury restaurant. The waiters and some locals listened to what I had to say, then expressed they could not understand what I was saying laughing with a courtesy. But this time, I did not have a choice; it was either to be unexceptionally late to our first class in Paris and make our professors disappointed or get to the destination on time and get my phone fixed and partially make professors happy, especially von Maur. I am pretty sure I looked like a tourist since I was fully geared with a sporty Nike shoes, a yoga pant which Europeans will never understand for the street fashion from the American culture, and the heavy backpack that contained all of my drawing kits and most importantly, water. Anyhow, I walked toward that French girl smoking outside the corner restaurant and asked, “do you know where the Apple store is near Louvre museum?”. She answered, “I am not very familiar with the new apple store around this area”, then she looked back and forth on my broken phone and her cigars to help further. “But I need to tell you that you are in the right neighborhood. You might have to walk back to the corner of that bridge and walk toward the north and make the instant left turn, then straight.”, she said in a broken English, but it was still well composed. I carried my exhausted body from walking for 30minutes back to that bridge corner. I stopped by the corner of the Pont Neuf Bridge where there were these “tall” brick buildings that did not really give me a message but a complication and a desperation. I made a left turn and another left turn. As I made my last left turn, I was already in a different world than what I perceived from the Pont Neuf Bridge. It was like New York City, but it had a different atmosphere and a culture. On this street, scale of the architecture was the biggest material that represented the streets’ purpose. Big arcades that gave a pleasant view entering into the retails. Those “tall” brick buildings were not just as dull as I thought. When my spirit was overruled by the impressions of the street, I finally saw this tall arch entrance. I was immediately able to say, “this is the way to the Apple store!”.
I still grabbed my phone with the google map opened, just in case I went inside a wrong gate or a complex. I stopped and looked around. Again, it was like another world from the Pont Neuf Bridge and from the streets I just walked by. The tall brick that I thought was just boring facades that blocked the views of the path to find the Apple store turned out as the Louvre Museum that was surrounding Louvre Pyramids, Arc de Triumphe de Carrousel, and other monuments. I forgot the purpose why I was in that place while dropping my jaw. I had this urgent eagerness to go by the Pyramids with an excitement thinking that I would be the first one to go see all of this great architecture I have been seeing on screens. I flipped through the map to verify where I was, and which way is to the Apple store. But my footsteps were moving forward the architectures that attracted me the most. As I walked and walked, I discovered a modern looking step to the ground and it says “mall”. Without
FINDING HOME IS LIKE LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT needing to look for my way to the store, I was able to get to my final destination. As I walked in, it was pretty obvious to say that I must take the escalator that take me to the lower floor to find the Apple Store. I cannot remember if I asked somebody where the Apple store was. But, I was able to manage finding it. As I found the Apple store, I started feeling part of myself screaming and howling in my body, “this is the freaking French Apple store, way better than what we have back in the US!”, looking at the marvel-like bricks that had a symmetrical façade at the entrance with about a 20feet tall glass that allows people to enjoy views of Apple products and the Apple’s iconic glass stairs that connects to the second floor, mostly as known as Genius Bar. I walked in life I have been here before and I knew what I was doing. I felt very comfortable. The lightings, comfy wood materials, chairs, desk, and most importantly, the apple products and the Apple employees with their blue shirts on, I was soaked in the memories when I had to make a Genius Bar appointment to get my phone fixed. It would sometimes take me about a week to just coordinate my schedule to the store. Then, all of these memories woke me up from the reality that I did not make a Genius Bar appointment. I reached out to the French Apple employee knowing that I would not be able to communicate in French. “Hi, I am here to exchange my damaged phone with a new one”. I cannot remember how long I waited to see one of the employees to take a look on my poor phone. But when I finally met this French employee, we started talking about the Apple stores in the US. I grandiloquently described the Apple stores in the US, but I also expressed my excitement about this Apple store’s unique architecture. We chatted a bit about why I was in Paris and shared a brief story of my life styles in New York City. He also shared some of his career and why how he ended up working at this Apple store. Then, he informed me that I had to come back in about 1hour to get the phone back. I hoped that it will fix rigorously within the time he set, otherwise, I was going to be screwed. I did not want to miss our first class in Paris either but deep in my heart, I was longing to explore more alone.
I heavily walked out of this store worrying that the phone will not be fixed before our class begins. I already knew that I will be at least a 30-minute late. But, I could not get away from keeping promises with one of the strictest professors, von Maur. I decided that while I was waiting for my phone screen to be repaired, I was going to get some lunch. In this kind of luxury mall, there are always food courts. I knew that I can find it somewhere near this floor level. I searched walking back to where I came from and I found this food court that was raised to the second level, but not necessarily considered to be a second floor. As I started wandering around the food court, I started becoming stunned by how expensive the meals were compared to New York. I could not decide which meal to have due to the strict diet I had during that time. I ended up choosing salad. While I was eating, I secretly watched around friends, families, and couples eating. I was sitting right by the balcony seats where I could
FINDING HOME IS LIKE LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT instantly look down on the lower level where French locals and tourists walked. Everything felt indifferent; busy mall with nicely dressed up people and a lot of tourists, like me. But, I felt like I was in a different place. Was this a good vibe? The salad did not taste good compared to the euros I paid. I had neither a watch nor a phone to check the time. So, I went down the level. I entered this inexpensive watch store to verify the time, of course I asked in English even before they could ask me how I was doing and what I was looking for in French. I knew that I could not get around this city with my French skill. The employee kindly informed me with time. I still had a bout twenty-minute. So, I decided to walk around the mall for a window shopping which is absolutely normal for me to waste about two to three hours in SoHo, New York City. Spending that twenty-minute was a piece of cake. But I started feeling stuck. “This is not really what I expected. This is not fun. I do this all the time back in New York. I need to go outside the mall”, I thought with boresome but hopefully.
Japanese Tourist and a Navigation
I turned back to the Apple store entrance. I remembered that there was a pyramid, semi looking like part of the building architecture but also acting as a sculpture or something that attracted lots of tourists. This pyramid, Piramide Invertida allowed the natural bright light comes in through the mall with a sky view and some people’s heads looking down on this because they curious to know what underneath was. “This is it! I need to go outside and check out what this pyramid is all about”, I excitedly screamed to myself in side of my body. I found an exit way through a staircase that was connected to the ground level. It was brighter and more exciting to be outside. I finally discovered how the pyramid worked outside the mall. It was a flat glass floor that people could look down the pyramid that was rotated 360 degree. Then, I decided that I will never go across beyond Piramide Invertida which was in the center of busy traffic predicting that I may get lost exploring more. The fact that me and my classmates will come to this area to see the Louvre Pyramid in the future days relived my worrisome. In fact, instead of following my gut or that attracted me, I began to follow people and tourists. I walked back and forth to visually understand what the buildings and the status meant in a palace-like museum. There are a lot of “tall” and symmetrical buildings that confused me as I explored. Then, I again decided that a big statue symmetrically lining up from the Piramide Invertida will be my navigation to find how to get back to the Apple store. I kept standing and walking around the Louvre museum. Then, this Japanese man approached to me. He gently asked, “Do you speak Japanese?”. I answered, “no, but I speak English”, with a confused face. Firstly, how would he assume that I am Japanese? There are more possibilities that some non-Asians may assume I am either Korean or Chinese. But, when an Asian man asks if I am Japanese, it is a questionable. Do I really look like Japanese? Secondly, why would he need me when I already clearly look like one of those Asian tourist groups with these sporty hats and sunglasses and a flag on their hands to make sure none of them get lost far away home across the
FINDING HOME IS LIKE LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT Pacific Ocean. Then he continued, “I am looking for Carrousel du Louvre. Do you happen to know where this is located?”, pointing his finger on his phone. He seemed very confused where he was in this gigantic place. I was not sure what Carrousel du Louvre was. “What is this place again?, I asked. “it’s a mall”, he smiled. Then a light bulb came on over my head. It is the underground mall that the Apple store is located at. I became very excited to tell him that I could give him a direction. “I know where it is! I was just around there to fix my phone. Come and follow me. I need to be there in a couple of minutes anyway”, I suggested very cheerfully. We started slowly walking toward the Piramide Invertida aligning from the big statue I considered as a navigation. He started asking me where I was from. So, I told him I am Korean, but I stayed most of my important life abroad. He said he was from Japan and he is a dentist. He started talking about Korean foods and what he likes the most about my home country. I never really had Japanese friends before. So, I eagerly expressed how much I love sushi and ramen. After a couple of some unique conversation we shared, I soon realized that I could not find the Piramide Invertida that allowed me to find a mysterious stair directly to the below level. I started panicking and starting to feel embarrassed. I told him the truth that I could not find anymore. He kindly and mercifully responded that he would help me find. But I could not let that happen because I stayed around this corner studying how I could remember this place like I am local! I quickly looked around to see understand where we were at. Am I looking toward South or North? Where am I?! Then, luckily, I found this luxury stair that led to the below level. I quickly but also carefully read the signs. It was the Apple store, I mean the Carrousel de Louvre, the mall he was looking for. I confidentially told him, “this is it. This stair should help you go down to the mall”. He answered, “thank you so much for your help! It was very nice meeting you. I wish you the best of luck”. He went down through the stair genuinely believing that it was the entrance to the mall. I, on the other hand, was worried what if it is not. I walked around the corner for a minute then decided to go inside the same stair to make sure that it is the entrance to the mall. There was a strict security procedure that I did not have to go through when I initially entered this building from that street after the French girl with her cigarette guided me. I had to make a line to let the French security guards check my touristy looking bag. At that moment, I could no longer tell how long it had been since I left the Apple store. So, I decided to run toward the Apple store. I finally got to the Apple store and the French employee welcomed me with my old phone’s screen shinning. The Genius Bar worker helped me through how to insert my sim card and verified that it is functioning correctly. I made sure to check our class schedule tracking on where my classmates would be drawing beautiful architectures of France at that certain time. I typed in the destination on an google map and started walking toward that direction. I somewhat felt sad that it was the end of journey alone in Paris; I walked through this picturesque art streets, and decided to walk across the Pont Neuf bridge, then got some navigational help from this French lady in her leather jacket with her cigarette on her hand, then this arcade streets, having an ugly salad I did not really like, and meeting this Japanese tourist from other side of the East Asia and directing him how to get to the mall. I had such a blasting experience having personal experience and meeting all kinds of people that I did not plan on.
FINDING HOME IS LIKE LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT
Home in New York
A month later in that summer, it was in the last day of June, a hot summer reaching an average of 90degree in New York City. Richie and I moved into this apartment after shortly visiting my parents in Korea. In the first morning, Richie suggested we should go out and walk around our long-time neighborhoods to get to know. We woke up at 5am and walked around Wallstreet. We first saw a Charging Bull, a bronze sculpture standing in between the Broadway and Morris streets. Then, we walked toward the Battery Park where it has one of the iconic views of historic islands and a Statue of Liberty. We were full of hope in that foggy morning while there was nobody, but just Richie and me. We were not necessarily new to the city, but the city became part of our life as a new start in “new home”. Everything went back to the normal busy life. Richie started working a full-time job and I got to enjoy the city more than “any of classmates” that are finishing their bachelor’s degree in Architecture this year. Every day, I went outside and spent the quality for myself. I met my old-Russian friend and other friends. The city became even more like the home where I called, “it’s my place where all of me is happening”. In the living room, I could see the full view of One World Trade Center from the Southeast side. On the West side, we had a little Juliette balcony where we could go out and enjoy the view of Hudson River. Every morning, I woke up with the view of sky with beautiful World Trade Center and other historic buildings that were in the procedure of renovating and reconstructing. Every day, I could see these little people moving in these two historic and gigantic buildings working hard to support their families. It was every day, twenty-four-seven. I never not appreciated the view we were given to see. In fact, my favorite spot of the house was the kitchen. Kitchen had the most beautiful view toward the Hudson river and cruises and boats passing by the water under the beautiful orange sunset. It always had abundant sun lights during the winter and a warm and refreshing lights during the summer. I would spend some time doing yoga toward the 12’ tall window. Or I would sometimes just sit on the tile floor and eat lunch. It was my favorite place to be. But there were a few times this view was overlapped with some of the construction sounds and a group of protest against the bankrupted construction company. During the weekends, I would also hear some army people running as a group and shout out their mission. Noisy emergency sirens sounds were an addition to it. Well, part of this building that people got most jealous of was our rooftop. Our rooftop is located on the 33rd floor, I believe. We had the 360degree view of wonderful scenery of financial district. Mostly, we could easily see the entire body of One World Trade Center and the Trinity Church, where the movie National Treasure was filmed. There are lots to boast about the apartment we lived in-because trust me, I did not deserve to live in such place with such views. New York City has always been the state of my heart.
FINDING HOME IS LIKE LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT I am an outdoor person. Yet, not exactly during the winter. Richie and I rarely went up to the rooftop during the winter season and we eventually even forgot its existence. Then later, we started spending more time outside. Everything was beautiful in our eyes; the city light, people, architecture and especially the food. Everything felt comfortable and enjoyable. Things started finding their own place back to where they belonged. One day, I went to Eataly, a famous Italian grocery chain store to get fresh vegetables. I went to this place every week to get fresh vegetables, meat, fish, and even fresh pasta. After I finished paying at the register, I headed toward back home with three to four heavy bags on each side of my hands. Then, I saw Asian and European tourists in a large group taking photos while following their tour guide with their logo on a flag above the sky. They could not take their eyes off the skyscrapers around them. Then, the other day, I was on the way to Brookfield shopping mall for a window shopping. I started noticing lots of Asian tourists hanging around the shopping mall. Some are busy eating foods and licking on ice creams. Some were just wandering back and forth in the mall and the boat dock. I started spotting non-locals everywhere I went. Everything in New York City was the love at first sight. Then, I started losing sensibility of what it is like to say, “this is it!”. Please do not get me wrong. I always asked myself if I would ever miss the view I was appreciating from home. And every time I questioned, I told myself, “remember this moment and the view that I am seeing will be forever in present like I am seeing it now”. Fortunately, I still keep that vivid sense and a view in my heart even after I left the city. So, it is not like I never appreciated getting used to seeing such landmark in a daily life. It was just not a love at first sight anymore.
What is home for me? Because I left home from my parents to study abroad since I was about 13, I lost the sensibility of belongingness to a home. Although I still want a permanent home to call it one, travelling and changes in environments have become part of my life. Then, is it wrong to have no permanent home or can we limit the definition of what home is for people? New York has been and will always be the home. It is where I had learned so much about life. It is a reminder of crucial part of my life; smell of the pleasant mornings and nights, Christmas, the touch of cold snow, architecture, loved ones, hateful people, friends, food, places, struggles, challenges and extraordinary experiences. Regardless, I also realized that I feel close to any place my heart feels it. My heart longs to look for a place that gives me a fresher and even a newer identity. But this home can be somewhere I have not ever been to before but is full of personal interactions that open my eyes with an unusual scale of architecture and people, like Paris. Sometimes, a place chooses us to call it a home. When I explored 2hours of first day alone in Paris, I did not plan on falling in love with the city. I never thought French was attractive enough to learn instead of Chinese or Spanish. I never targeted on learning French architecture. I loved their fashion but not insanely. But,
FINDING HOME IS LIKE LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT the scale of architecture and their rich history of architecture inspired me even without having to read a boring textbook. It was the love at first sight that I naturally wanted to call it a home. It made me feel new and different from Korea, Philippines, or the US. I felt like a completely new person but a better new. I still believe that it is important for me to have a long-term home. But is it not the purpose of life that I am looking for where I belong to? It is a constant journey I take to find a better-me and to appreciate what each place has to share?