Le Havre: Week Two

Week two has ended and we have experienced almost a year’s worth of weather: rain, sun, heat, cold and the cycle starts anew each day. Within one day it will be gray and ominous, sunny and breezy, rainy, or glorious.

One gray day last week we had an introduction to the city by Thomas M., one of the city employees. He took us up and out onto the 17th floor of the city hall building, which is one of the highest points in the lower city and gave us a wonderful 360 degree view.

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The “gates to the sea”…

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Upper Le Havre on the hill (including the neighborhood of St. Addresse) overlooking lower Le Havre.

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The port in the background and the white “Volcan” building hiding behind a tower of apartments.

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But even cloudy days can result in spectacular sunsets, especially when the tide is low and the beach exposed and the light sets the buildings and clouds aglow.  Image Image Image

But then that weekend came the sun in a gorgeous blue sky, turning the buildings into blocks of brilliant whites and pastels.

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The Basin du Commerce: DSC01351

And the people! What had seemed a sleepy, almost empty town turned into a bustling hive—everyone was out, shopping the weekly outdoor markets, having coffee at the brasserie, strolling along the beach and soaking up the sun on the “porches” of the small seaside cabanas.

Image I revisited the Eglise St. Joseph (St. Joseph’s church), designed by Auguste Perret as part of the reconstruction. It, as all his buildings, is primarily concrete but he added an interesting touch: he retained the imprint of the wooden beams used to mold the concrete, which not only reveals the method of construction but is an elegant reminder of the regional tradition of half-timber construction.

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imprint in concrete:

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example of early half-timber construction:

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The church’s interior is impressive even on gray days but on sunny days it is wholly transformed as light streams through the stained glass windows, throwing a coded language of color across the concrete walls. The windows were designed by Marguerite Huré who gave each wall its own color scheme based on the direction it faced.

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And a view up into the tower on a gray day. The helix-like stairs are on the left. We were strongly dissuaded from asking to climb them…

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But life here is not just wandering around and taking photos (although that’s a lot of it–I’m up into the 2,000s already). We have started working in our absolutely huge studio spaces which are located in an old elementary school, where children’s drawings still hang on the wall.

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Up next: a visit to an outer neighborhood of Le Havre and a beautiful nearby village, Honfleur!

About Stephanie Beck

Exploring the international world of art.
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