Wednesday 20 May 2009

What's in a Name?

As Jim and Mitch recently pointed out in their fascinating Designslinger blog, many residential buildings have very visible names on them. They are placed there for a variety of reasons, but as time goes by the reasons become less and less clear until they eventually become an additional mystery in the patchwork of the city. In Paris it is rare to see residential buildings given quaint, pretty names like those in Chicago featured on Designslinger, but occasionally names can still be seen, like on the building pictured above on the Passage Thière behind the Place de la Bastille.

With Parisian buildings often heavy with sculpture and decoration, it was perhaps felt unnecessary to weigh them down even further with names. In comparison, Chicago's sometimes austere structures perhaps needed softening with a picturesque and evocative title. The building I have featured here though is named for other reasons. The name, Leon Mager, signifies not only the person who paid for the construction but also acts as a clear entranceway to the factory owned and managed by the same person, which was situated in the courtyard behind.

Today the factory has all but disappeared but the impressive residential section is still firmly in place, as is of course the name. Curiously, the Leon Mager business still seems to be in existence, and although it continues to operate from the original address, it is simply named Mager today. The company website is designed to give the establishment a modern spin, and no mention is made of the history of the enterprise nor of the forefather who left his name so visibly on the face of the city.

Note: For more information on the architectural elements of this building, see the post I wrote on my Bricks in Paris blog. In some ways these two posts show why I felt it necessary to launch a spin-off blog; one to deal with the technical aspects of (brick!) buildings, and one to deal with the stories or curiosities I find around them. In today's day and age, recycling should also be something to be encouraged too!


Anonymous said...


Thank you very much for the compliment - Invisible Paris is our touchstone for your beautiful city. We always look forward to your posts.

ArtSparker said...

Well, who'd be more embarassed - that Oszymandias guy or this Mager type? The first guy has had his memorial crumble, while the second guy has advertised his ego to passersby who for the most part are indifferent at this pint in time. It may be better to plant a garden.

Recycled bricks are beautiful - I should try to take photos in my neighborhood.

Starman said...

I would have assumed, upon seeing such a name, that it was a company of some sort.

It would also appear that one of your commenters doesn't really understand what the name on the building is all about.

PeterParis said...

Thanks! You are the best! I have seen this building, but didn't do the research you have done! Once more impressed! :-)

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