If you are a shoe freak, you have to love Louis Benech: he is the life partner of shoe designer, Christian Louboutin. I am also a lifer … of all chaussures de Louboutin. One other thing to know about Benech, he was trained as an lawyer and became a landscape architect. This might explain the kind of gardens he makes. Paula Deitz, was the moderator of the talk and book signing with Benech at the FIAF (French Institute Alliance Francaise) on Thursday evening.
After a brief introduction, recalling how she met Benech, Deitz began with Benech’s redesign of the Tuilieries in 1991.“You are wearing the shoes of Le Notre.” Deitz made two other remarks during the evening. She was shut out of the “conversation” by Benech, who admitted “I talk too much.”
The Tuileries Garden is approximately 63 acres and the design still reflects Andre Le Notre’s original plan of 1664.
Benech posed the question, “What would Le Notre do today with millions of people in the garden?” I found this a really interesting way of looking at the redesign of a space revered around the world. The Tuilieres Garden was created by Catherine de Medici as the garden of the Tuileries Palace in 1564. In 1664 Louis XIV commissioned Andre Le Notre to redesign the entire garden. In 1990 Benech won an international competition to redesign the Tuileries gardens in front of the Louvre. Convoluted is Benechs’ style of speech. I had a hard time following his explanation of the design concept beyond the Tuileries. Finally, he came right out and said it. “I hate concepts. I am keen on what I see. I know what I want to enhance.” Suddenly I felt much better. I was struggling to try to understand something wasn’t part of his universe.
“I am cheating with Le Notre. What’s clever in Le Notre’s design is his sense of space. He tricks you. He makes a long space shorter than it is. It’s all about progression.”
Benech’s biggest project to date: a contemporary intervention in the park of Versaille and a collaboration with sculptor, Jean-Michel Othoniel: Basquet du Theatre d’Eau. Taking into account archaeological research, Benech also studied the site from a historical perspective. The sculpture/fountains designed by Othoniel and Benech are inspired by ballets given by Louis XIV and described in a book by Raoul-Auger Feuillet in 1701.
Benech described the relevance of these “calligraphic” sculptures/fountains. He compared them to the ballets Louis XIV conceived. Benech also referenced the sculptures en borderie found in the formal parterres of Le Notre’s Versaille.
Benech ended his remarks with, “Le Notre is incredibly tiring. He pushes you to walk. You never see everything at once. It’s all about the leveling.” I felt Benechs’ presentation was a kind of leveling: I was a little closer to Le Notre.