Appended to a medieval Parisian church in the sixteenth century and stranded by revolutionary destruction, the Gothic Tour Saint-Jacques figures prominently in the city's nineteenth- and twentieth-century architectural imagination. This study of the modern afterlives of an emblematic monument, featured in the projects of Haussmann, Le Corbusier, and the surrealists, uses the lens of "perceptual history," or a plotting of the ways in which the site has been read and inhabited over time, to argue that successive representations of a city fabric have a transformative effect on the lived reality of that fabric. To anchor this rumination within a larger speculation on the how and why of heritage making, we focus as well on the tower's emergent patrimonial status, consolidated by the physical fixes of repeated restoration and the fixing of its image by graphic and photographic representation. The traumas of the tower's particular semantic journey offer compelling evidence of the availability of symbolic redefinition as a viable and even necessary option for historic architectures under pressure in our inherited city centers. Repeatedly spared by its own mutability, the Tour Saint-Jacques would now appear inviolate, embraced as a trace of an unrecoverable past, a contact zone between contemporary Parisians and their forebears.
Afterlives of the Tour Saint-Jacques: Plotting the Perceptual History of an Urban Fragment
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Lauren M. O'Connell; Afterlives of the Tour Saint-Jacques: Plotting the Perceptual History of an Urban Fragment. Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 1 December 2001; 60 (4): 450–473. doi: https://doi.org/10.2307/991730
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