In the centre of the Place de Fêtes, a historical spot that today wears the face of a 1970s experiment in urbanism, stands a curious sculpted obelisk. What is it and why is it there?
The Place des Fêtes in the 19th arrondissement is situated at nearly the highest point in Paris. Its rather quaint name comes from its origins as the spot where celebrations were organised in the town of Belleville before it was swallowed up by neighbouring Paris. Despite having one of the city's oldest gardens at its heart, the Square Monseigneur-Maillet, the Place today is an almost entirely mineral environment, a concrete esplanade surrounded by brooding high-rise blocks of flats.
The ensemble is given a mysterious twist though, firstly by artist Marta Pan's fontaine-labyrinthe, and secondly by the impressive obelisk that thrusts from the centre of the square. A large part of this structure is in glass, but the base is made up of carved slabs (coated today in tags and grafitti). In the middle is a door, its mysterious nature highlighted by a large painted question mark. This door does not open from the outside, but you can get a glimpse inside the structure through a gap between cracked slabs. A staircase strewn with broken glass and empty beer cans leads down to an unknown destination.
Curious to know the story behind the obelisk and its purpose, I tracked down the artist behind much of the creation, Zoltán Zsakó. What was initially the search for an answer to a mysterious structure became a interesting investigation into the problems of urbanism and heritage, and a topic that is far too long for a blog!
Zoltan Zsakó told me about the connection to Mozart, potential links to freemasonry and how the obelisk has became a target for young snipers stationed in the surrounding tower blocks!
The story will not be told here though, but hopefully soon in an online magazine version of Invisible Paris that I am currently putting together, and where I will publish a number of longer features. If anybody has any advice or suggestions on tools and hosting for such an initiative, I would be very interested to hear from you!