Travel Notebooks: Paris, Atlanta, Kyoto


On our minds » Our love of cities and their varied historic, new and repurposed structures. From our travel notebooks, the first of a two-part Design Brief of creative inspirations from Paris, Atlanta and Kyoto.

Lila Firouzfar



Travel Notebooks

Rear view of the building standing in a sort of sunken lake, with a cascade of water descending into it. 

Traveling to Paris has always been a joyful and nostalgic experience, reminding me of my formative years at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. September saw me once again in the City of Light reconnecting with old friends from my alma mater. Naturally, we found ourselves at La Fondation Louis Vuitton – Frank Gehry’s latest addition to Paris, his second in the city after Cinémathèque Française which opened its doors earlier in 1994. This trip has been a long time coming as the building in question has been perpetually ‘in-construction’. It’s taken 8 long years for La Fondation Louis Vuitton to finally open its doors in the fall of 2014.

Travel Notebooks

Rendering @ Gehry Parters, LLP.

Located deep in Bois de Boulogne park on the border of the Jardin d’Acclimatation – a 19th-century children’s park and zoo established in the era of Emperor Napoleon III; the Foundation – a striking contemporary glass and steel structure, resembles a vessel floating above the trees. This makes for a spectacularly juxtaposed contemporary building site nestled within a historic park close to the center of the city. It evokes other famous Paris monuments like the Grand Palais, Musée D’Orsay and as Mr. Gehry describes it – “had to be something that fits into a garden, something in the tradition of a 19th-century glass pavilion or conservatory”. One look at the structure and it’s not hard to imagine that Gehry envisioned a pavilion in the form of a sailing vessel with 12 curved glass voiles (veils/sails) inflated by the wind.

The entrance to the foundation leads to a tall grand hall bathed in natural light from a skylight above. From here, viewers are directed up angled staircases and meandering paths to the indoor galleries featuring contemporary art exhibitions; as well as outdoor terraces partly enclosed by the glass ‘voiles’. Unlike most buildings, the exterior and interior spaces are forever competing for the viewers’ attention. The terraces, at differing heights, afford stunning views of the city above the canopy of trees. The ‘voiles’ are really canopies composed of more than 3600 glass panels of different shape, curvature and size – no two of them are the same. Pools at the ‘bow and stern of the vessel’ reinforce the idea of a gleaming sailing ship on the water.

Travel Notebooks

LEFT  »  The vessel viewed from the top of the cascade.  CENTER TOP  »  One of the stairs leading you from one terrace to the other (where you are supposed to get lost by design), in between very white curved concrete panels of the interior  exhibition space volume, one of several terraces.  CETER BOTTOM  »  Me and a friend in front of the stair-step cascading water feature.  RIGHT  »  Long colonnade either side of “Grotto”. The colonnade is composed of more than 40 columns of different size and shape, some faces are mirrored and some others are covered with yellow mosaic that gives the impression of a kaleidoscope.

Being an avid runner, I have always enjoyed taking quick runs in city parks all over the world. As we walked in Bois de Boulogne park approaching the foundation, I was surprised and heartened to see several people taking in the sights of the building while enjoying their little runs. This latest striking addition to the park is what makes Paris so special and I cannot wait to return to the city to explore the sights of the city’s new architectural jewels.

Fondation Louis Vuitton
The Building: Frank Gehry

The New York Times: Art & Design
An Architect’s Big Parisian Moment

Courtney Drake



When I travel to a city for the first time I try to set aside time to explore and get a feel for the city’s architecture and urban life. In June, I had the opportunity to visit Atlanta for a friend’s wedding and made visits to Krog Street Market and Ponce City Market. I love adaptive reuse projects where you can see a combination of the old and new city.

Travel Notebooks
Travel Notebooks

TOP  » Main entrance.  LEFT  » Steve and I at Historic Fourth Ward Park.  CENTER TOP  » The Atlanta Stove Works factory,  1889.  CENTER BOTTOM  » Krog Street Market branding. RIGHT B0TTOM  » Remnants from the Atlanta Stove Works factory.

Krog Street Market opened in 2014 with a west coast-style market, restaurants and apartment units in the former home of the Atlanta Stove Works factory complex. Ponce City Market is a mixed-use development with a food hall and rooftop amusement park opened in 2016 in the former home of the Sears, Roebuck and Co. retail store, warehouse and regional office. Both buildings were built in the late 1800s and went through decades of growth then decline and eventual abandonment. Now in the early 21st century both buildings are reused and given a new vibrancy.

Travel Notebooks

LEFT  » Entry bridge from the BeltLine trail.  RIGHT  » Views along the BeltLine trail.

I’ve been to several food halls and market projects in Denver, San Francisco, Portland, New York, Boston, and DC. While the interior of these spaces often has a similar feel, what I found interesting about Krog Street and Ponce City was their sites and their connection to each other and the city of Atlanta. From Krog Street Market I walked along the BeltLine trail, a 22-mile loop made up of several historical rail lines that now circle the city. It was great to see so many residents using the trail, even on a rainy day. On the trail, I walked past large art installations and parks with a wonderful view of Atlanta’s skyline. Buildings along the walk that once had their backs to the train tracks are now engaging with it. The BeltLine led me straight to Ponce City Market where I found a great spot for a second lunch!

National Trust for Historic Preservation
Ponce City Market: Atlanta’s History in the Making

The Economic Advantage of Embracing Atlanta’s History

Aaron Hotaling



Travel Notebooks

Signature Ando.
“I want to create a space which no one has created before with a very common material which anyone is familiar with and has access to,” Mr. Ando wrote in an email interview through a translator. “Concrete can be made anywhere on earth.” —The New York Times

Japanese History, Culture, Art, and Design have always been a source of inspiration for me, and the country has been on the top of my list of places to visit. Last year I planned a short ten day trip to visit a few major destinations in Japan, including Kyoto, Tokyo and a day trip to Osaka. Typically, when planning a trip to a large metropolis I’ll plan my experience around seeing as many significant architectural places as possible. This trip was no exception, and with a seemingly endless selection of both modern and historical places to choose from, narrowing down what to see was a bit of a daunting task. The one thing that was certain was that I was going to see as many Tadao Ando buildings as possible on this trip. When all said and done I was able to see seven of them.

One of my outings took me to the Oyamazaki Villa Museum of Art. Originally designed for Shotaro Kaga, a major influence in introducing beer and whiskey culture to Japan, the building was conceived as a country villa with similar style to an English Tudor cottage and completed in the early 1900’s. After being relinquished by the Kaga family and being resold many times, Asahi Breweries purchased the property, restored, and reopened the building as a museum with a dramatic addition completed by Tadao Ando.

Travel Notebooks

LEFT  » In the Garden.  RIGHT  » Descending to the Underground Jewelry Box annex designed to appear semi-buried with greenery planted on top of the cylindrical gallery exhibition space to maintain harmony with the surrounding landscape. In this gallery, masterpieces from Claude Monet’s “Water Lilies” series are permanently exhibited.

Quite off the beaten path, access to the museum is through one of the ever-reliable Japanese train lines and into a rural area South of Kyoto. Once off the train, a short 10-minute walk up the side of what seems like a small mountain, leads you to a stone gate that marks the entrance to the property. Since on foot, my approach to the museum was not up the main driveway and to the main entrance, but through the large garden on the grounds. It was early November at the time of the trip and the fall foliage was prominently displayed throughout the garden. Once in the garden, you immediately recognize the main building with its large terrace that overlooks the garden and three major rivers in the valley below. As you continue to approach the building, the Ando annex begins to reveal itself within the garden. The main annex houses Claude Monet’s ‘Water Lilies’ and is a circular gallery partially submerged in the ground to maintain harmony with the surrounding landscape. To access the Monet gallery, you enter through the main building, with its intricate wood detailing, and into the stark contrasting corridor of glass and concrete. Stepping from the main house into the addition feels like you are simply stepping from the interior of the original house to the outside, as you are surrounded by glass on all sides. But continuing towards the gallery you descend a set of stairs down to the gallery and the space starts to take shape around you. As beautiful as the Monet’s are, I couldn’t help but find myself lingering in the corridor.

Travel Notebooks

LEFT  » The Old and The New.  RIGHT TOP  » View of Mt. Tennozan from the Café terrace. RIGHT BOTTOM » Aaron in Japan.

The National Art Center, Tokyo 

Tadao Ando: Japan’s Master Architect


Philadelphia and Wynnewood, Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Whole Foods Market | Rodin Square, Philadelphia, PA
View from entrance on Pennsylvania Avenue, facing the Rodin Museum. Placed at the end of the two-story glass arcade housing a two-story café, the step-down entrance initiates a welcoming, pedestrian scale. Photo by Dan Cunningham.

Rodin Square and the Whole Foods Market at Philadelphia Center City, Pennsylvania are now officially open, creating two additions to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway cityscape.  The Whole Foods Market celebrates Philadelphia’s industrial identity, takes advantage of the city views, and introduces several new food venues. The 60,000 SF grocery (pictured below) also provides an anchor to the Rodin Square block, which features a two-acre roof garden and pool for 293 residential units.

Learn more »  Rodin Square via our website.

WFM | Rodin Square, Philadelphia, PA
New concepts include open kitchens for the prepared food sections (top-most photo), and food halls with local vendors (photo directly above). In the open kitchen concept, cues like the shift from solid to patterned flooring, rather than physical barriers, distinguish customer areas from work areas. 
WFM | Rodin Square, Philadelphia, PA
Light shines in from the glass arcade on Pennsylvania Avenue to the coffee bar. Photo courtesy of Whole Foods Market.

Sarah Helms


Sarah has been part of the MV+A team for over a year as our Administrative Assistant. She’s the voice on the other side of the phone when you call the office (feel free to say hi!), and also helps to support marketing and presentation efforts, operations, and our newly redesigned website.

On city life:
“I grew up in rural north Georgia, then went to school in rural Virginia, so DC is the first city I’ve lived in. This winter, I’m planning on frequenting the modern art gallery of the National Portrait Gallery, and the Rodin sculptures in the National Gallery.”

On the MV+A office:
“I feel lucky that our office is beautiful. The architects here were intentional about the combination of wood paneling, concrete floor, earth tones, and exposed ceilings and beams, to create a soothing, organized environment to walk into every day.”

Whole Foods Market Wynnewood Opens

WFM | Wynnewood, PA

The Whole Foods Market at Wynnewood, PA, pictured here from Wynnewood Road, opened this September. MV+A planned the redevelopment and designed the store exterior and interiors.