Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Sirloin Science

The sun doesn't emerge until 8:15am in early February in northern Europe, which means that any normal schedule spends a good hour and half in the dark to commence the day here.  My indication that the day has started is the repeated clanging of the heavy gate of the apartment block across the street, as people head off to work starting around 6:30am.  You'd think they could dampen the sound somehow.  But apparently this hasn't occurred to them.  Neither has it occurred to them that the gate serves no safety purpose at all since it is never locked.

I have been reading about La Villette, a science museum on the northern edge of the city, opened in 1986.  It turns out that in 2000, this was the biggest science museum of its kind in the world (it may still be) -- but for a very strange reason.  The building's original intended purpose was different: it was to be the slaughterhouse for the city of Paris.  This massive structure, planned during the era of Charles de Gaulle (d. 1970), was hailed as the "abattoir of 2000", but before its completion the advancement of refrigeration techniques meant that cattle no longer needed to be processed near the point of sale, and the entire industry moved out of central Paris to the countryside. This left the building without a purpose.  Rethinking it as a museum, along with the installation of the neighboring Cite de la Musique, has created a whole new cultural region in this very culture-rich city.