Paris: HOW THINGS WORK – Musée National des Arts & Métiers

 French people are maddeningly bossy, emphatic, know-it-all’s who have an uncanny ability to take an invention, refine it, tweak it (well beyond the point most of us would have lost interest), and turn it into an astonishingly beautiful feat of engineering. No matter where you wander in Paris, you can’t help but appreciate this persistent national trait.                                   Pillars in the form of palm trees in Saint-Séverin Church, Paris
Awesome Gothic rib-vaulting at Saint-Séverin Church
Howling monsters hang off  the facade of Saint-Séverin
Artist Daniel Buren’s 1986 fanciful columns set in Cardinal Richelieu’s 17th century Palais Royal
photograph by Lauri Gaffin
photograph by Lauri Gaffin

2000 A.D. engineering

photograph by Lauri Gaffin
     Strategic Innovations
To see just how industrious the French are, we visited the Musée National des Arts et Métiers (The National Museum of Arts and Industry). It boasts a collection in excess of  80,000 engaging objects. It takes extra brain power and indefatigable stamina to take it all in.  Floor after floor of magnificent inventions gave us that defeated,  mind numbing feeling that the New World still has a lot to learn from the Old World. No matter how we might try, we can never quite compete with the French genetic predisposition to design with an intensity of decorative flourishes and an extraordinary sensitivity to materials.
For example, when Americans think of the first flight, they think of Kitty Hawk.  In France, Clément Ader (1841-1925) figured if a bat could fly, then all Parisians should  climb aboard a batmobile and flap around the city.  In 1897,  he claimed his Avion III stayed airborne for about 900 feet, or did it?  No one is alive today to confirm it, but as you stare up at this creature, the sheer enchantment of it is tangible.
How do you build a perfectly balanced spiral staircase? See below.

Is this flawlessly hand blown glass snake an invention or a work of art or just really scary?

  One of our favorite models in the museum answered the question, “How do you build a Statue of Liberty if you’ve never built one before?”

17th century calculator looks like a jewel box

So that’s how a clock works!

Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot’s 1769 steam engine powered vehicle.

Since this was the first car ever built, there was no Peugeot or Renault Company to tell Monsieur Cugnot to put brakes on it. So, naturally, it crashed!

We loved this former sanctuary filled with early planes.

 The museum of Arts & Metiers is one gigantic brag-fest for how things work in France, from a humble ruler to a competitive jet engine. The museum is housed in a series of buildings, the earliest of which is the old priory of Saint-Martin-des-Champs founded in 1060.  To visit:  Located on 60 rue Réaumer, 75003 Paris. Metro stop: Arts et Métiers, Réaumer-Sébastopol.
Cause and effect:  culture makes you hungry.  We wanted to find a restaurant that rigorously kept with our French construction theme so we made the short trek to Les Ombres restaurant at the Musée du Quai Branly. Jules Nouvel’s esoteric design gives the diner the impression you’re eating inside an Erector Set model while looking out to that other Erector Set model, the Eiffel Tower.
photograph by Lauri Gaffin

Diners eat 5 stories up, perched atop the ethnographic Branly museum.
photograph by Lauri Gaffin
That other pleasing French invention, haute cuisine, is made abundantly obvious at Les Ombres.
photograph by Lauri Gaffin
photograph by Lauri Gaffin
photograph by Lauri Gaffin
photograph by Lauri Gaffin

Lunch prices are more than reasonable with a 2 plate offering at 26 euros and a 3 plate offering at 38 euros. address is 27 Quai Branly, 75007 Paris. Reservations a must: +33 1 47 53 68 00.

All other photography by Waldemar Kalinowski

One thought on “Paris: HOW THINGS WORK – Musée National des Arts & Métiers

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