Essential Architecture-  Paris

Hôtel de Sully


Androuet du Cerceau


62 Rue Saint-Antoine, 4th.




French Baroque




Town House (hôtel) Now Museum.

This hôtel is often used as a shortcut by those in the know. The building is an early Parisian Baroque inspired by Flemish architecture. You can see how this has smaller windows and seems heavier than the Hôtel Lambert. But the design is ingenious because it links the main entrance on the crucial thoroughfare of Saint-Antoine with the aristocratic strolling-ground of Place des Vosges, called Place Royale at the time. This careful floor plan by Jean I Androuet du Cerceau seems effortless and logical when you stroll through the building—the courtyards are open to the public. The formal layout and symmetrical windows of the hôtel show the Baroque interest in a dignified, well-ordered environment. But the Baroque style is also designed to impress visitors: a hôtel was meant to announce your importance and power. Here, huge allegorical figures representing the four elements and the seasons are similar to the Renaissance style seen in the Hôtel Carnavalet, but the facade’s stonework has become much more active. Energy and movement were crucial considerations in the Baroque; stone was cut to encourage variations of light on its surface, and elaborate window surrounds became the norm. This hôtel was originally built for Mesme Gallet, but was taken over in 1634 by government minister Maximilien de Béthune, duc de Sully, who gave the building its name. After admiring the entrance courtyard, walk between the tormented-looking sphinxes and pause to look up at the magnificent stone stairwell. Continue into the formal garden courtyard, where the noise of Saint-Antoine falls away. The building facing you is the former “orangerie,” built as a miniature mirror of the hôtel. At the far northeast corner is a discrete door leading to Place des Vosges: the perfect shortcut.
During our ramblings through the Marais after using the Palm Pilot tour, we stumbled across the Hôtel de Sully, without knowing what it was. We entered through a doorway into a small courtyard surrounded by lavishly decorated buildings, with three carriage stalls on the right, one containing a small car. While we didn’t investigate further that day, we returned to the Marais many times during our two week stay, and we saw the Hôtel de Sully two other times, with knowledgeable tour guides (Sophie and Jean-François) explaining about the building and its decorations.

As with other hôtels particuliers, the houses of the French nobility, the buildings form a square around the courtyard, with the side facing the street known as the court side (housing the servants, kitchen, etc) and the side farthest away from the street known as the garden side, since the garden of the house is located on the other side of the building. The garden side houses the master and mistress of the house (on different floors), since that side has the view of the garden and is farthest away form the noisy, smelly street. The Hôtel de Sully was restored in 1965 and the building now houses the Caisse nationale des Monuments historiques in addition to a book store. The courtyard and garden are open to the public (the garden has a passage that leads to the Place des Vosges as well.

Le Marais. 3e, 4e arr.
Métro : Hôtel-de-Ville (1, 11), Saint-Paul (1)

The Marais is one of the most historic sections of Paris, but it is also one of the most hip places to live. It is known for its museums, art galleries, synagogues, and gay bars, among other things. In order to get to know it better, we were provided with two Palm Pilots containing a pictorial tour of the Marais. The tour, called "Flaneurs Savants" created by Andrea McCarty and Rekha Murthy (two graduate students in Comparatiive Media Studies at MIT), started in front of the Hôtel de Ville and used pictures to guide us through the streets.The first landmark to get us started was the church with the red door (see picture). We continued down the street and saw, nestled between modern houses, two half-timbered houses, a style that dates back to the 15th century. Although we abandoned the tour (it was too hard to look at it and the stuff around us at the same time), we did get to know the Marais on our many return trips.

The Jewish section of the Marais was very evident by walking down the rue Pavée and seeing the oldest synagogue in Paris (and the traditional Jewish men in their suits, hats, beards and peyot (long sideburns). The whole area is filled with kosher restaurants and delis, like the one seen in the photo. The Marais is also known for its concentration of gay residents, due to the opening of many gay bars and clubs in the area. The proliferation of gay bars was a side effect of the commercialization of the area that led to the vast number of stores in the area. Gay or straight, the area does seem to inspire love, even in those too old to walk alone.


By Lisa Pasold (Special thanks to