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Posts Tagged ‘quarry’

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Photo: Associated Press
Under the streets of Paris, you can get lost in a whole other world.

I have a friend whose dream is to go to Paris. It has been her goal for decades, and she was all signed up for a trip when she fell and landed in the hospital. But she hasn’t given up, and I expect by this time next year she will have met her goal.

Paris has an irresistible lure for people around the world. If you have already been there, consider discovering the underground version of that city next time you go.

Robert Macfarlane writes at the New Yorker, “The map runs to sixteen laminated foolscap pages, or about ten square feet, when I tile the pages together. I have been given it on the condition that I do not pass it on. It is not like any map I have ever seen, and I have seen some strange maps in my time. The plan of the above-ground city is traced carefully in pale silver-gray ink, such that, if you read only for the gray, you can discern the faint footprints of apartment blocks and embassies, parks and ornamental gardens, boulevards and streets, the churches, the railway lines and the train stations, all hovering there, intricate and immaterial.

“The map’s real content — the topography it inks in black and blue and orange and red — is the invisible city, the realm out of which, over centuries, the upper city has been hewn and drawn, block by block. This invisible city follows different laws of planning to its surface counterpart. …

“The map’s place names traverse a range of cultural registers, from the classical to the surreal to the military-industrial. … Affordance is specified on the map in handwritten cursive words: ‘Low,’ ‘Quite low,’ ‘Very low,’ ‘Tight,’ ‘Flooded,’ ‘Impracticable,’ ‘Impassable.’ More detail is occasionally given: ‘Humid and unstable region (sometimes flooded)’; ‘Beautiful gallery, vaulted and corbelled.’ …

“I have come to the catacombs with two friends — let us call them Lina and Jay. Jay is a caver keen to extend his explorations into city systems. He is droll, unflappable, and strong. Lina is the leader of our group, and she has been here many times. She is passionate about the catacombs, especially about preserving and documenting their swiftly changing features through photography and record-keeping. …

“ ‘We’ll plan to exit by a manhole, whenever we come out.’ She gestures back up the tunnel with a smile, then eases herself feet first into the ragged hole, raises her arms above her head, and disappears.

“All cities are additions to a landscape that require subtraction from elsewhere. Much of Paris was built from its own underland, hewn block by block from the bedrock and hauled up for dressing and placing. Underground stone quarrying began in the thirteenth century, and Lutetian limestone was used in the construction of such iconic buildings as Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Louvre, and Saint-Eustache Church.

“The result of more than six hundred years of quarrying is that beneath the southern portion of the upper city exists its negative image: a network of more than two hundred miles of galleries, rooms and chambers, extending beneath several arrondissements. …

“For centuries, quarrying was ill-regulated and largely unmapped. Then, in the mid-eighteenth century, the extensive undermining began to have consequences for the upper city, causing subsidence sinkholes, known as fontis, that were reputed to be of diabolic origin. The quarry voids had begun to migrate to the surface; the under city had begun to consume its twin. …

“Louis XVI responded, shortly after his accession, by creating an inspection unit for the ‘Quarries Below Paris and Surrounding Plains,’ headed by a general inspector named Charles-Axel Guillaumot, and tasked with regulating the quarries for the purposes of public safety.

“It was Guillaumot who initiated the first mapping of the void network, with a view to consolidating existing spaces and regulating further quarrying activities. A subterranean town-planning system was established whereby chambers and tunnels were named in relation to the streets above them, thus creating a mirror city, with the ground serving as the line of symmetry.”

There’s a long read at the New Yorker, here.

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The last time I checked into the always intriguing website This Is Colossal, I followed a link to My Modern Met, where Katie Hosmer writes about a trampoline that people are bouncing on in the Llechwedd slate caverns of Wales.

“This underground labyrinth of netting is a giant trampoline playground set inside a slate quarry cavern in the Welsh mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog. Developed by Zip World, Bounce Below [offers] visitors a playful experience deep beneath the surface of the earth.

“The tourist attraction features three giant trampolines suspended across the cave, ranging from 20 feet to 180 feet high. Ten foot net walls prevent people from climbing out, while walkways connect the trampolines, and slides offer an easy way to exit. As visitors jump around, the walls of the surrounding cavern are illuminated with glowing blue, green, pink, and purple lights.

” ‘We got the idea when my business partner saw this done in woods in France but this has never been done in a cavern, this really is a world first in Wales,’ says Sean Taylor, owner of Zip World. ‘It’s a one hour activity where customers get dressed up in a cotton overall and given a helmet; they then jump on a train and travel inside the mountain.’ ”  More crazy pictures at My Modern Met, here.

How do you keep ’em down in the bouncy house after they’ve seen cave trampolining?

Photo: My Modern Met

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Indiana University’s Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) reports that artists generally seem to be happy with a life in the arts.

From the blog ArtsJournal.com: “According to SNAAP’s survey of 36 000 creative arts grads, their unemployment rate is half that of the national average and 71% of bachelor’s degree holders in the arts and 86% of those with an MA are working or have worked as professional artists.” More at the Snaapshot site.

Having seen La Bohème and read George Gissing’s 1891 novel New Grub Street (and having accepted every word as Gospel), I believe that a life in the arts can be difficult. But I do think if you can work in a field that lets you use your creativity — or one that provides time to do art  part time — you will be happier. Everyone, in fact, should have a creative outlet, I’d say.

Would love your comments.

Photograph of Timothy Callaghan by Mary Ann Hall, Quarry Books editor

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