The balcony probably wanted to be deeper, but the alley wanted to be wider and smoothly turn left. Some negotiation seems to have occurred between those two entities. The result is delightful because the balcony nourishes the alley and the alley nourishes the balcony. This seems to be a definition of beauty: beauty happens when entities draw their raison d'êtreand wholeness from the extent to which they are complementary parts of an interlocking whole.
The alley is probably a meter-and-a-half wide. At this level of closeness, one can sense the recently baked pain au chocolat smells permeating the calle, every item in the patisserie's display can be clearly seen. It is easy to recognize subtle details in passers-by's garments and even discern facial expressions.
Small dimensions and the resulting intimacy seem to have been erased from modern urban planning.
Concerning small dimensions that modern urban planning decided to abolish, the facade of this store at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin in Provence, demonstrate how much can happen in the half-a-meter space between the vertical wall and the horizontal street.
This relatively small territory is appropriated and personalized through color, plants, signs, merchandise, a small carpet. Is the in-between half-a-meter space private or public? Both? Neither? A mediator? The ambiguous borders between private and public seem to have been delightfully blurred.
After we mentioned the meaning of a meter-and-a-half in urban planning, and the impact of half-a-meter in urban environments, this facade makes clear the impact that even smaller dimensions can make on the urban space. I think took this picture in Aix-les-Bains or in Paris, long ago.
The rilievo doesn't stick more than five to ten centimetres out of the wall, and yet is capable of telling a meaningful story and link the otherwise flat wall to tradition and history. Outlawed in modern architecture, ornament and splendor are in fact basic human needs.
Vernacular architectural languages and dialects were created by millions of people over thousands of years. Just like the verbal languages, architectural languages combined everyday insights and lifetime wisdom in traditional architectural patterns that evolved though time. Can we a posteriori rationalize the patterns we find? Can we fully recognize those patterns? Colors, vertical openings, juxtaposition of buildings, textures, immediacy to water?
Is it a sort of architectural Tao that can not be named, explained or expressed in words? Apparently it has to be lived unintentionally.