Les Olympiades du 13ème Arrondissement,
20 Avenue d’Ivry Paris 75013, France
I grew up in an apartment in an area of Paris called Les Olympiades, an urbanist housing project constructed between 1969 and 1974. At the northern end of the fourteen tall brutalist
apartment blocks is the Parc de Choisy — at the southern, Place d’Italie. Each tower is named after an Olympic host city; Tour Tokyo was the tower our apartment was in. My family and I became part of the Southeast Asian community that began to populate the complex in the late 70’s. This area became known as the Asian Quarter of Paris — Le Quartier Asiatique — my childhood home.
This chapter reflects on nostalgic memories of my time spent in Les Olympiades, the things and the people that make up this communal lifestyle — a way of living with our neighbours, together, within one building and the experience of what that was like. The contrast between individuals and their own narratives, their own aesthetics. The shared common areas, multiple floors, lobbies and lifts, intercoms and speakers, concierges and janitors, notice boards. Life in an apartment block.
L’Ascenseur (The Lift) was one of those things you had to take in your day to day living in an apartment, going from one floor to another. The brightly lit, enclosed metal box, where the
individuals of Les Olympiades crossed paths. I wanted to capture these awkward moments up close with another, exchanging quick glances, not really knowing where to look. Wondering who they might be or where they came from. Those fleeting moments spent within a confined space with a total stranger, where the seconds and minutes spent between floors can feel like a lifetime. I also wanted to capture those moments where we find ourselves alone, doing odd things, when we think no one is watching.
There are sentimental nods to individuals that I remember crossing paths with — groups of tacky teenagers wearing matching tracksuits, jackets zipped up, collars popped, pants tucked into socks and sneakers. My cousins in denim jeans, bleach-splattered, wearing oversized striped button up shirts — iconically 90’s. Grandparents pulling shopping trolleys, wearing long coated cotton trenches and plastic raincoats, paired with coral or mint coloured knitwear for warmth. My aunt in her floral nightgown, broom in hand, too much makeup and overly blow-dried hair complaining to the neighbours. An old man in a coach jacket carrying a baguette and newspaper. A father in worn out jeans and a tobacco-scented blazer. A young woman in a flared dress paired with sport socks and a jacket stolen from her boyfriend. A suited doctor with briefcase and moustache going back to practice in the apartment block.