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Posts tagged ‘5th arrondissement’


Square Danielle Mitterand and its Sounds

THE SQUARE DANIELLE MITTERAND, formerly the Jardin de la rue de Bièvre, is a small green space at N° 20 rue de Bièvre in the 5th arrondissement.

The Jardin de la rue de la Bièvre was created in 1978 but on 8th March 2013, International Women’s Day, it was renamed Square Danielle Mitterand.


Danielle Émilienne Isabelle Gouze was born in October 1924 at Verdun in the Meuse department in Lorraine in north-eastern France. During the Second World War she was a liaison officer in the French Resistance where she met François Mitterrand. They were married three months after the Liberation, on 28th October 1944. François Mitterand went on to become President of France from 1981 to 1995.


The Square was named after Danielle Mitterand in recognition of her work in the Resistance movement and her subsequent work for human rights.

In 1986 she founded the Fondation Danielle Mitterand – Frances Libertés, an organisation dedicated to building a fairer and more socially-responsible world by defending human rights and protecting shared assets, specifically by promoting the right to water access for all and ensuring that people’s right to utilise their resources is recognised and respected.

The foundation’s work has three component parts: support for projects run by communities at grassroots level, citizen, civil society and political decision-maker awareness raising work, and finally advocacy work with the public authorities and in the United Nations. The Foundation has consultative status on the UN Economic and Social Council.

Over the years, the Foundation has participated in many issues including the right to free potable water for all, the fight against racism, support for the Tibetan people and the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. It has also worked for the reconstruction of the educational and social system in Cambodia and on issues surrounding health security in Africa.


The location of the Square Danielle Mitterand is appropriate since it’s just two doors away from N° 22 rue de Bièvre, the private residence of François and Danielle Mitterand from 1972 to 1995.

Although Danielle lived at N° 22 during that time, François commuted between there and rue Jacob in nearby Saint-Germain and the home he shared with his long-time mistress, Anne Pingeot and their daughter, Mazarine.

The Mitterand ménage was undoubtedly complicated but nevertheless seemed to work remarkably well. In 1958 Danielle acquired a long-term lover of her own, a gym teacher who sometimes fetched the morning croissants and then sat down to a friendly breakfast with François.

All this was widely known in Parisian society but a compliant and complacent French press kept it under wraps until the end of Mitterrand’s presidency in 1995.

Both Danielle Mitterand and Anne Pingeot attended Françcois Mitterand’s funeral in 1996.

Danielle Mitterand died in Paris on 22nd November 2011, aged 87.


Sounds in the Square Danielle Mitterand:


The Square Danielle Mitterand is not the most elegant square in Paris but I like it. Sitting at the back of the Square on an August afternoon I was content simply to listen to life passing by in the Square and in rue de Bièvre.


Rue de Bièvre


The Musée Curie Marks International Women’s Day

I WENT TO THE fascinating Musée Curie last week. To coincide with International Women’s Day the Musée Curie opened a temporary exhibition in the garden of the museum made up of photographic portraits celebrating the careers of prominent women, past and present, who worked or are currently working in the fields of science and medicine.


A photographic portrait of Marie Curie in the garden of the Musée Curie

The Musée Curie was founded in 1934 just after the death of Marie Curie. It’s located on the ground floor of the Curie Pavillon of the Institut du Radium in the 5th arrondissement and it was formerly Marie Curie’s laboratory where she carried out her research from 1914 until her death in 1934.


Marie Skłodowska-Curie was a remarkable woman. Born in 1867 in what was then the Kingdom of Poland, part of the Russian Empire, she completed her early education in Warsaw before moving to Paris in 1891 to continue her studies and to begin her scientific career.

Despite the disadvantages and indignities that went with being a woman in what was considered then (and many argue still is) a man’s world, Marie Curie’s achievements were prodigious. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, she was the first person to win the Nobel Prize twice and she remains the only person to win the Nobel Prize in two different sciences. She won the Physics Prize in 1903 for the discovery of radioactivity (shared with her husband Pierre Curie and the physicist, Henri Becquerel) and the Chemistry Prize in 1911 for the isolation of pure radium.

Her achievements included not only creating a theory of radioactivity (a term that she coined) and isolating radioactive isotopes but also the discovery of two elements, polonium (which she named after her native Poland) and radium.  She was also the first woman to become a professor at the University of Paris and, under her direction, the world’s first studies were conducted into the treatment of tumours using radioactive isotopes. She founded the Curie Institutes in Paris and in Warsaw, which remain major centres of medical research today. During World War I she established the first military field radiological centres and it was the excessive doses of radiation that she was exposed to while doing this work that contributed to her subsequent death.

Marie Curie was also the first woman to be interred in the Panthéon in Paris in her own right.


Institut du Radium – Pavillon Curie

Marie Curie’s achievements were indeed prodigious but so were those of the rest of her family, between them they were awarded five Nobel Prizes.

As well as the 1903 Prize for physics, which Marie shared with her husband Pierre and the 1911 Prize for Chemistry which was hers alone, her daughter and son-in law, Irène and Frédéric Joliot-Curie each received the 1935 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for their discovery of artificial radioactivity.


From L to R – Pierre Curie, Marie Curie, Irene Joliot-Curie, Frédéric Joliot-Curie

Marie Curie’s husband, Pierre Curie, was a physicist working in crystallography, magnetism and piezoelectricity when they first met but he became so interested in the work Marie was doing that he joined her and they began to work together.


Marie and Pierre Curie in the garden of the Musée Curie – Note how Marie is on the left and Pierre is on the right but in the text below their names are reversed.

Sadly their partnership was all to short, Pierre died in a street accident in Paris in 1906. Crossing the busy Rue Dauphine in the rain at the Quai de Conti, he slipped and fell under a heavy horse-drawn cart. He died instantly when one of the wheels ran over his head, fracturing his skull. They were reunited though in 1995 when both Pierre and Marie were interred in the crypt of the Panthéon.


Housed in Marie Curie’s former laboratory, the Musée Curie contains a permanent historical exhibition about radioactivity and its applications, notably in medicine, focusing primarily on the Curies and it displays some of the most important research apparatus used before 1940. It also contains an historical resource centre, which contains archives, photographs, and documentation on the Curies, Joliot-Curies, the Institut Curie, and the history of radioactivity and oncology.

So here is the record of my visit to the Musée Curie on International Women’s Day:

Inside the Musée Curie:


Marie Curie’s office where she worked for 20 years


Marie Curie’s chemistry laboratory next to her office


An original laboratory report


In 1921, Marie Curie was welcomed triumphantly when she toured the United States to raise funds for research on radium. US President Warren G. Harding received her at the White House to present her with the 1 gram of radium collected in the United States. This is the specially lined box that contained the precious radium handed to Marie by the US President.


Above and below – In their time, cutting-edge research apparatus


The Garden Exhibition:









Institut Curie – Hôpital de Paris – Part of the Institut Curie, one of the leading medical, biological and biophysical research centres in the world.

Marie Curie’s pioneering work affects us all and today we take it for granted – from our simple luminous wristwatch to the most sophisticated cancer treatments. Yet in her lifetime and despite her huge achievements she faced enormous prejudice, not for her work, but for simply being a woman.

Marie Curie succeeded by rising above that prejudice as have all the enormously talented and successful women portrayed in the photographic exhibition in the garden of the Musée Curie.


Musée Curie, 1, rue Pierre et Marie Curie, 75005 Paris

Open Wednesday to Saturday, from 1pm to 5pm. Admission is free.

The exhibition in the museum garden runs from 8th March to 31st October 2014.


Arènes de Lutèce

IT WAS JULIUS CAESAR who gave the ‘city of the Parisii’ tribe’ the name Lutetia in the first-century BC. The Roman settlement of Lutetia broadly corresponds to today’s 5th Arrondissement, it extended roughly from the Rue Mouffetard in the east to the Rue de Vaugirard in the west and from the Boulevard Saint-Germain to a little beyond the Montaigne Saint-Geneviève.

Like all Roman cities, Lutetia was adorned with porticoed buildings, a forum, a temple, private dwellings, public baths, an impressive aqueduct to supply the settlement’s water needs and an arena for sports and entertainment.

The arena – the Arènes de Lutèce – was built as an amphitheatre around 200 AD and it could accommodate around 15,000 people, almost twice the population of the then city. It was a little unusual in that as well as theatrical productions, animal fights and gladiatorial combats, its sunken location meant that it could also be filled with water to accommodate aquatic sports and entertainment. Great mock sea battles were fought here.

The Arènes de Lutèce as it probably looked to the Romans

It didn’t last though.  Lutetia was sacked by barbarian invasions and the Arènes de Lutèce fell into decay. The centre of the arena became a burial ground and the stones were pillaged to reinforce the city defences around the Île de la Cité.  The construction of the Philippe Auguste wall in the thirteenth-century marked its final disappearance. The Arènes de Lutèce was out of sight and out of mind save for the name given to a neighbourhood quartier, les Arènes.

And it remained that way until Baron Haussmann’s reconstruction of Paris in the mid nineteenth-century.  During the construction of the Rue Monge some of the surviving remains of the arena were discovered by Théodore Vaquer, one of the unsung heroes of Parisian conservation. Haussmann though was all about the future with little time for the past and so he pressed on. He had the site bulldozed and built an omnibus station.

 In the late nineteenth-century, further construction revealed more of the Arènes de Lutèce but by this time attitudes were changing. A strident public debate led by Victor Hugo and others got underway.  Hugo wrote an open letter in which he said:

“It is not possible that Paris, the city of the future, should renounce the living proof that it was a city of the past. The arena is an ancient mark of a great city. It is a unique monument. The municipal council which destroys it would in some manner destroy itself. Conserve it at any price.”

Two of the animal cages

The campaign was successful and funds were dedicated to restoring the arena and establishing it as a public space, which was opened in 1896. And so it remains today.

Sounds of the Arènes de Lutèce:

In today’s Arènes de Lutèce there are no sights or sounds of animal fights, gladiatorial contests or great sea battles – instead there are people sitting on green benches doing nothing in particular or enjoying picnics or games of Pétanque, all accompanied by the ever present children playing football – and the occasional bird scarer.

This arena was built as a place of entertainment … and so it continues today.


The Voice of the N° 39 Bus

I HAVE SOME EXCTING NEWS! The bus stop announcements on the Paris buses are being updated and the current computer generated Text to Speech voices are being replaced with real voices recorded specifically for each bus route. Soundlandscapes has been given exclusive access to see how the new announcements are produced.

Song Phanekham is the man responsible for the sound identity of RATP (Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens), the Paris mass transit authority, which includes the Metro, the RER, the buses and the trams. Amongst other things, he is responsible for the excellent, four-language, “Mind the Gap” announcement on the newly automated Metro Line 1.

I met Song last week at the studios of Sixième Son, Europe’s leading audio branding and sound identity agency, in the 5th arrondissement. Working with Sixième Son, RATP are gradually improving the customer experience by producing clear, distinctive and friendly announcements that have a very Parisian feel to them across the entire RATP transport network. I watched as the bus stop announcements for the N° 39 bus route were recorded.

The N° 39 bus route is one of around 350 routes that RATP operates. It crosses Paris between the Gare du Nord and Issy-Frères Voisin. If you travel on a 39 bus today, these are some of the sounds you will hear.

Sounds inside a N° 39 Bus today:

It is these dry, monotone announcements that are being replaced. The objective is to make travelling on public transport a more welcoming and friendly experience. I know that sounds like something straight out of a marketing brochure but having seen at first hand the effort RATP are making to produce more genuinely customer friendly announcements, I have to applaud what they are doing.

If the announcements are to be less robotic and more welcoming, and if there is to be a real voice specially recorded, then there has to be a face behind the voice.

Let me introduce Andréa, the voice of the N° 39 bus.

In this sonic modernisation programme, RATP decided not to use actors or voice-over artists to make the new announcements. Instead, they held auditions within RATP and selected some of their own employees to do the job. Andréa is one of several employees selected.

From the control room, I watched as the names of all the bus stops on the N° 39 route were recorded. The atmosphere was relaxed but very professional as Andréa went about her work.

Recording the announcements:

She spoke the name of each bus stop and then repeated it two or three times, sometimes with a slightly different inflection, so as to give the director and the editor more choice.  Song directed the recording session and he intervened gently from time to time to ensure that he got the result he was looking for. I was impressed by the care taken to ensure exactly the correct inflection on each name but I was even more impressed by the care taken to ensure the correct pronunciation.

One of the stops on the N° 39 route is Abbé Groult. Andréa had a view about how to pronounce ‘Groult’ and Song had a different view. In the end, it was decided to record both versions and then to seek advice from the Académie Française, custodian of the French language. The Académie ruled that, “Dans les noms qui se terminent en -ult, les consonnes finales ne se font pas entendre. On dit l’abbé grou.” So there we have it on the highest authority, the letters ‘l’ and ‘t’ are silent.

Different versions of Abbé Groult:

 After the recording session came the editing and the final selection of the sounds to be used.

Editing and selection:

Again, great care was taken to ensure that everything was perfect. A debate ensued about the pronunciation of Desnouettes-Vasco de Gama. That pesky little ‘de’ between Vasco and Gama has a lot to answer for. And ‘Grands Boulevards’ wasn’t plain sailing either. Eventually though, everyone had their say, the editor worked his magic and the finished sounds were to everyone’s satisfaction.

During the next two or three weeks, these sounds will be uploaded into the sound systems of all the buses that work the 39 route. Then, as if by magic, the GPS system on each bus will activate the audio announcements and the sound of Andréa’s voice will be heard as each bus stop comes into view.

This recording session was just one of many that are being held to update the announcements on the Paris buses, the Metro, the RER and the Trams and to make them more user friendly. From late June and early July, Andréa will also feature on bus routes 70, 82 and 92. Around mid-June, new announcements will appear on bus routes 43 and 95 with a male voice. Then the announcements on two major BRT (bus rapid transit) lines in the southeastern suburbs, Tvm and 393, will be updated.

Well done RATP!

I am very grateful to Song Phanekham, RATP and Sixième Son for allowing me to attend this recording session and for their hospitality. And of course, special thanks to Andréa for allowing me to record her being recorded.