Why the Tuileries in Paris are the Perfect Urban Landscape
The Grand Couvert is one of the most sublime urban landscapes that I know. Located at the heart of the Tuileries in Paris, next to Rue de Rivoli—extending from the Louvre to the Place de la Concorde—the gardens are a public space that offers a timeless setting for urban life. I usually walk into the garden from the Rue de Rivoli near the Place Vendome. Here the alignment of the Paris blocks is turned just enough to see the buildings at a slight angle, somehow emphasizing how embedded the gardens are in the city. The crushed stones beneath you immediately signal the sound of the Tuileries.
The Rue de Rivoli frames a powerful street at the northern edge of the garden. The continuous line of the roof rises just above the top of the tree line when looking out from the garden. (Imagine the views from those rooftop apartments!)
Almost aligned with the Pavillon de Marsan of the Louvre, an alley of trees defines a walk extending a few hundred meters along the edge of the Tuileries. A favorite strolling/jogging path, this space is one of the tightest in a landscape of broad tree groves, parterres and promenades.
The Grand Couvert is mostly comprised of grids of trees shaping outdoor rooms, shaded walks, places for quiet repose or playful gathering. Extending up the middle is the Grand Allee, the main axis runs all the way from The Louvre to the Place de la Concorde and the Champs Ellysees beyond. Sitting at the edge of the promenade, I feel like I am simultaneously within the garden but at the edge of a place of movement that carries tens of thousands of people every day.
One of the most beautiful places to enjoy the Tuileries is within the groves of trees at one of the cafes. With a view opening onto a sunlit patterre, this is the perfect place to sit quietly enjoying a drink or engage in conversation with a friend.
The Grand Round Pond is one of two bodies of water on the axis of the Allee promenade. Here one of the most pleasant opportunities arises, sitting in one of the classic green painted metal chairs watching the water, the changing Parisian sky, the people milling about or sitting nearby.
Arriving at the Tuileries early one morning I am struck by the emptiness of the place and the beautiful shadows cast by trees, chairs and other objects in the landscape. The odd jogger passes by as I wander across the crushed stone surface, which glows in the light.
Nestled in a space carved out of the groves is a classic carousel. Its music and warm light draws me closer. I watch the device spinning with the fading sunlight catching its mirrored surfaces.
The next morning the carousel is quiet, waiting for the life of the park to start up again.
Photographs by the author.