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PARIS, France—When I mention “Paris” and “Tower” to any American, their first response will be the Eiffel Tower. They might reflect back on their own visits to Paris, remembering their walks with their partners along the Seine River or their afternoon picnics by the Eiffel Tower. These dreams rarely include the Montparnasse Tower.
While most of Paris looks like the work of artisans, the Montparnasse Tower looks as if a toddler stuck his brown Lego in the center of the historic city. The 59-story building, built in the 1970s, caused such a huge outcry that two years after its construction, buildings over seven stories were banned from the city. It is that ugly.
The Montparnasse Tower is also where the majority of my summer school program takes place. Our classes, movie nights, and team work sessions all happen on the twentieth and twenty-first floors of the Tower. The third day of the program, our opening ceremony took place in a classroom on the twenty-first floor. The two glass walls opened our room to the rest of the Paris, the view only interrupted by a line of iPhones shooting timelapse videos. The Eiffel Tower juts out before the horizon line. I looked out the window with a glass of champagne in one hand and a macaron in the other, wondering if I would ever get a better view in my life.
It might seem like the only redeeming quality of the Montparnasse Tower is its view of the rest of Paris. Some argue that the best part about this view is that you can’t see the Montparnasse Tower itself when you are inside.
But there is more to this ugly brown brick. About five weeks into the program, we were back in the room where our opening ceremony took place. All of us lay down on oversized bean bags, eating Domino’s pizza as we watched Black Mirror episodes on the projection screen.
A couple hours later, someone shouts and motions us towards the windows. The Eiffel is glittering—it twinkles for the first five minutes of every hour after sundown. As the hour goes by, the sky settles into darkness, and people start to leave. I decide to stay back with ten or so students and a couple members of the teaching staff.
The second time the Eiffel twinkles that night, most of us are no longer lined up by the windows. Most of us are not even in the room. We are in a windowless hallway, rolling around the twenty-first floor in plastic wheeled desks, racing to see who can finish a lap the fastest. Our two teaching staff join, and we all laugh as they sprint and tumble over each other down the hall. At this point, the Eiffel is a familiar view. Seeing my teaching staff speed around in a desk race is not. The view from the Montparnasse Tower is great, but the view inside is sometimes even better.
Julie S. Chung ’20 is a Crimson editorial editor in Adams House.
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