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t h i s c o u n t e r f e i t

pa r i s i a n l i f e
ANNE WEI

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Val dEurope is the copied
product that becomes reality. It is a
town entirely composed of life-sized
souvenirs of Paris insofar that the
town itself becomes the souvenir. The
purpose of the souvenir is to remember
the original through the form of a
physical representation. Visitors and
residents at Val dEurope are reminded
of Paris as they see the copied
Haussmannian faades lining the
streets of the town. In the process of
replication, however, memories of the
original become distorted and altered
to adopt a more pleasant and romantic
quality than they actually were as if to
satisfy a need for constant nostalgia.
Souvenirs then foster a false truth as it
reinforces a false memory of the original.
Overtime, these false memories will be
inadvertently taken as true and actual,
until eventually the fictitious becomes
the authentic past. In creating a town
entirely comprised of reproductions

of Parisian architecture, Val dEurope


hopes to foster the nostalgia for the
Parisian past, but instead creates an
environment of false memories and
a distorted reality of space and time.
In
Reproduction,
Fragmentation, and Collection: Rome
and the Origin of Souvenirs, author
Sarah Benson describes, The kind
of memory these souvenirs embody is
not interior and personal but outward
and collective. The production and
consumption of souvenirs functioned
to provide prefabricated, standardized
memories of Rome even to those who
never set foot within the city wall (16).
Though Benson speaks of Rome, her
statement applies to all cities. As the
souvenir town, Val dEurope crystallizes
the collectively held fantasy and
illusion of Paris through its replication
of existing Parisian buildings that are
iconic to the city image. The replication
is not meant to replace the original,

nor can it fool visitors and residents


of its counterfeit, but rather it serves
the purpose of providing a fantasy
environment where one can remember
and is allowed to inhabit nostalgia.

Walking
through
Val
dEurope, people are presented
with duplicated artifacts of Paris
and, though a new development,
contemporary faades are absent
from the townscape. The omission of
the contemporary building faade in
Val dEurope is an act of preservation
of the nostalgic and historic past
of Paris. However, Val dEuropes
preservation through replication is
motivated by economic and not historic
means. As Giles Lipovestky writes in
Hypermodern Times, Museums put
on historical shows, and archeological
sites create virtual simulations to bring
the past to life; the tourism of memory
is experiencing a mass success (59).
Val dEurope is not a museum, nor is

it an archeological site, but the town


applies the same principles of museum
attractions and exaggerates iconic
historical features in the interest of facevalue entertainment. ValEurope is not
original and therefore has no historical
valued of its own to exploit for profit,
but its model for town planning and
construction is centered on the idea of
extracting the historical image of the city
of Paris, simplifying the original forms
to a product that is approachable,
or easy for entertainment and mass
consumption.
The process of
replication strips away for all of the
historical substance and value it tries
to capture and recreate and leave
only the shell of representation. Val
dEurope is an example of societys
increasingly reductive nature and
navet. Val dEurope provides a
cheap, censored version of one of
the most influential cities in the world
for its residents and visitors with the
expectation that it will be admired
and loved due to the visual similarities
between itself and the original.
The
Haussmannian
faades along with the other Parisian
architectural elements in Val dEurope
are counterfeits and replaceable,
yet the fact that they are replicas of
preexisting architecture is obvious and
recognizable as copies as they differ
from the original in materiality and the
quality and care of craft. Despite the
cheaper appearance and quality of
the replicated Parisian buildings in the
suburban town, Visitors and residents
of Val dEurope will still associate the

towns overall appearance with that


of Paris, and likewise, the people
will be reminded of the memories
of Paris through this medium of
physical representation of the original
structures. A weak and superficial
relationship develops between Val
dEurope and Paris as both share
the common image of the distinctive
Parisian streetscape.
Lipovetsky
continues, This come-back of the
past comprises one of the facets of
the cosmos of the hyperconsumption
of experience: it is no longer just a
matter of gaining access to material
comfort, but of buying and selling
reminiscences, emotions that evoke the
past, and memories of days deemed
to have been more glamorous (60).
Lipovetsky speaks of the original and
not the reproduced, but the properties
of the authentic are constantly being
devalued and bastardized their
materiality and depiction for the sake
of consumption and profit. When the
nostalgic image of the city is applied
to the present-day conditions, a
misalignment occurs between the
preconceived image and the reality,
which leads to disappointment and
dissatisfaction. The gap between the
expected and the actual is then filled by
opportunists like Val dEurope who
create the kitsch and clichs of Paris
to appease the public demand for
the immortal nostalgic image of Paris.
Duplication and mimicry of the original
becomes an inevitable consequence
of
societys
consumer
culture.

Top:
Gustave
Caillebottes
painting of the
Parisian flneur.

Bottom:
Interior of the
Val dEurope
mall made to
look like a


Val dEurope functions like
an exhibition, as it specifically selects
a particular place and time to replicate
and display with the intention of
simulating the experience of traveling
back in the time. It provides an
environment directly created from the
precedent of the Parisian past and
filters the negative, unwanted qualities
of the city, only to leave behind what
is desirable and most representative of
the original form. Unlike the museum
and amusement park, Val dEurope is a
fully functional town instead of just mere
attraction and exhibition. The town
offers the opportunity to live in a tangible
form of nostalgia of Paris past, a past
that connotes glamour and idealism as
Lipovetsky notes. This overly romantic
remembrance of Paris is a distortion of
reality of the past and exists as a result
of its depiction in the media. It is only
in hindsight that Paris past is seen as
romantic and ideal and this fabricated
image of the past is increasingly
exaggerated with the function of
time.
Additional, the collective
society encourages the magnification
of nostalgia of Paris, which then
satisfies the imagination and yearning
for the ideal Parisian time and space.

Aesthetics
alone
has
influential power over the peoples
perception of reality and fantasy.
Val dEuropes reconstruction of
a Parisian past is motivated by
economic profitability in the buying
and selling of nostalgia through a
physical construction of the illusion.
The shopping mall at Val dEurope
condenses all iconic architectural
elements of Paris into one large space
of consumption and commerce. The
agglomeration of Parisian architectural
motifs in the shopping mall attempts
to recreate the experience of walking
down a street in Paris, as the interior is
design to physically mimic the Parisian
street, complete with street lamps
and decorative wrought-iron balconies
protruding about store fronts. The
second edition of the Val dEurope
brochure even highlights this fabricated
experience of the promenade of
shopping as an attractive quality of the
town, Inspired by 19th-century Paris,
the shopping centers architecture
encourages walking and socializing
as well as places to enjoy a leisurely

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snack or some live music at Les


Terrasses, a vast cast-iron and glass
atrium abounding with plants (19).
The brochure explicitly states that
the design of the mall is based on a
particular era in Paris, an era that has
become synonymous with the height
of creativity and the avant-garde. With
the shopping mall, Val dEurope not
only simulates a Parisian street, but
it also tries to transfer the experience
of the flneur meandering through
the streets of Paris. The shoppers
assume the role of the flneur, but like
the cloned architecture of Val dEurope,
their roles are inauthentic as they are
virtually engaging in a Parisian drive via
the corridors of a suburban mall. Val
dEuropes mall activates the perception
of a Parisian experience through the
proxy of imitating the original image.

The ability to live in a time
other than ones own is like acting in
a play, as Michael Herrman explains in
Hypercontextuality: The Architecture
of Displacement and Placelessness,
This marginalizing of reality is the
result of fascination with the image that
simulates realityThis kind of mimicry
is closely related to the theatrical
performance and the stage set where,
although no one is correctly aware of
the non-reality of what one is seeing,
there is an unconscious permission
to temporarily suspend reality (187).
Like the theater stage set, Val dEurope
assembles together icons of Paris that
distinguish the city from the rest of the
world to create the Paris of the collective
memory rather than the Paris of reality.
The concept of the amusement park
and museum exhibitions allows for
a temporary escape from reality, but
with Val dEurope being the inhabitable
display and the elaborate theater
performance, escape and role-play
become the selling point for the town.

Furthermore, Val dEurope
challenges the notion of the present
and future Paris. Paris is already seen
as the city for escapists. In presenting
an environment based on the Paris-ofthe-past as a form of alternative to the
actual city, Val dEurope is questioning
the reality of modern-day Paris as

the site for inspiration, creativity and


pleasure, characteristics that are
congruent with the Paris of nostalgia.
As if there were a lack of Parisian
nostalgia in the actual city, Val dEurope
manufactures the escape from Paris by
permitting an escape to another time
and literally place that is deemed
to be the traditional, classical Paris.

Val dEurope offers permanent
escape, a platform that is disturbing as
it realizes the power of delusion and
mimicry on reality. The town presents
the permanent escape from the reality
of Paris and the realities of the city
that are the illegal activities, noise, and
crime. The permanent escape is also
one of denying progress and avoiding
the challenges of the unknown. Val
dEuropes permanent escape is one
of immortalizing a nostalgic Parisian
past that in itself, is inauthentic and
fabricated; thereby avoiding change
and future, as future is the unknown and
the unpredictable, factors that make
people uncomfortable for there is the
absence of knowing and the familiar.
Val dEurope suggests that living a
life solely based on the superficiality
of imagery of the past is acceptable
and welcomed.
By enforcing a
delusional nostalgia of Paris through
the construction of an inhabitable
playset, Val dEurope engages in
a dangerous experimentation of
cultivating a community based on
deception, artificiality, and the absence
of substance. Val dEurope produces
the inhabitable counterfeit environment
based the counterfeit nostalgia; it
would only be a matter of time before
the inhabitants become accessories
of the grand play of illusion and
mimicry envisioned by Val dEurope.

References:

Benson,
Sarah.
Reproduction,
Fragmentation,
and
Collection:
Rome and the Origin of Souvenirs,
Architecture
and
Tourism:
Perception, performance and place,
(Berg, New York, 2004), 15-36.
Herrman,
Michael.
Travesty:
Architecture
of
Distraction,
Hypercontextuality: The Architecture of
Displacement and Placelessness,
(CNR, Rome, 2009), 185-210.
Lipovetsky,
Giles.
The
Past
Revisited, Memory in the Age of
Hyperconsumption,
Hypermodern
Times,
(Polity
Press,
Cambridge, UK, 2005), 56-62.
Val dEurope Communications, Val
dEurope. New Enterprise, New
Society, New Ideas, 2005, 1-31.
Images:
Gustave Caillebotte. Paris Street, Rainy
Day, 1877. Art Institute of Chicago
w w w. p i c a s a w e b . g o o g l e . c o m
www.private-guides.com.

A replica of a Parisian Haussmannian building in Val dEurope.


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