Those who think that Hector Guimard was the only eccentric architect to produce Art Nouveau in the parisian daily landscape will be left speechless by the 29 Avenue Rapp. Built in 1901 by Jules Lavirotte, this seven story creation is probably the most extreme example of the ornamental delirium that is Nouveau that the french capital has hidden away. Lavirotte didn't do it alone, but collaborated with his friends, the ceramist Alexandre Bigot and other fellow sculptors to create this flamboyant and voluptuous façade, making them winners of the annual architectural frontage of Paris that same year .
Asymmetry, organic forms and color tones, use of modern materials, the building was very much a gossip factor at the turn of the century, unsurprising when you’re confronted with it the first time. The 29 Avenue Rapp presents an extraordinary amount of erotic wit, visually translated through stone in both abstract motifs and figurative symbols, that where at the time immediately understood by a “ fin de sciecle “ mind, even in the most prudish of observers.
Instead of the colossal caryatids which sometimes pretend to hold the building, Lavirotte chose to represent a quiet, personal view of Adam and Eve - through his eyes, she becomes an arrogant beauty proudly teasing the viewer with her curves, while her guileless lover has some difficulty hiding his virility. The bestiary of sin is also displayed, peacocks, reptiles - bulls for masculine principle and bugs for its alter ego, while the bronze lizard which serves as the entrance handle refers to an old slang to describe male genitalia.
If the message wasn’t clear enough, Lavirotte designed the wooden door as a gigantic reversed phallus, adjusting the already extravagant look of the overall composition. Stuck between two very puritan examples of Haussmanian architecture, Lavirotte‘s 29 Avenue Rapp apprears like a steam-punk aphrodisiac factory.