Le 104, or Centquatre Paris is a huge industrial warehouse that offers people a large open space to work on their own creative project in a symbiotic environment. It's a creative venue for exploration as well as a blank canvas for exhibitions.
Although there have been and will be many important art exhibitions at this venue - the most important thing that's constantly being exhibited is the diversity of ideas. It's not about what colour, gender or age you are - it's about what you choose to do. In the large and open space, the life on show varies from day-to-day or even hour-to-hour. At one point you might see a b-boy and his crew doing their thing next to a group of elderly people practising tai-chi with a group on quad-skates synchronising their routine in the hallways.
Why are they there? They're practicing, learning and improving - they're doing all this in a space that allows them to either engage with others or work on there own things. There are darkly lit tunnels for those shy of the crowds and there's the main hall for those less so.
Paris is a city that has gone through extreme change over the past decade - so spaces like this where people can work together, especially on such a scale, creates many opportunities. To one person it can be used as rehearsal space, yet the person that's next to them might be there as a young entrepreneur engaging with the space in an entirely different manner. There's a welcome balance between the life outside, only a few minute's walk from the bustling canal area, and having its own life inside. It's a true ecosystem that is powered by people.
104 is an embodiment of what working together can achieve - it's a collaboration between economics, social, artistic, physical and social spheres. Standing in the middle of one of the two main rooms is quite something. What is now a place that teems with life has a history that begins at the other end of the scale - it was at one point the municipal undertakers.
The large industrial-style building was created by two architects under the eye of the city's chief architect, the person responsible for the continuity of the cityscape. It's reminiscent of the other train stations that dot the city - a conscious decision aiming for architectural consistency when building Paris' industrial revolution identity. Despite the structural similarities - it's the usage that makes it such an idiosyncratic presence in Paris' landscape.
Large quantities of funerals were serviced by the rue d'Aubervilliers building. Over 1,400 people worked there at its busiest point - manufacturing coffins and storing everything else required for the ceremonies. This also meant that people had to learn the necessary trades to work in the industry - to cater for this, there were workshops teaching carpentry, tapestry and upholstery situated there.
The lineage of learning has continued throughout its lifespan. Although the place has completely changed, morphing into an epicentre of raw passionate existence - it retains the early spirit of industry. It's a place that makes you feel like anything is possible.
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