Passage Choiseul

The Passage Choiseul, though it has many aspects of a typically passage, is different from many of the other Passages we have observed. Its general decor seems less aimed at providing a luxury shopping or browsing experience than some of its counterparts, providing an interesting contrast at the crowd it is aiming to attract.

Located in the Opéra District on Rue des Petits Champs, Le Passage Choiseul varies from several of the other passages we have explored within the realm of Paris. Upon first glance, one can tell that the grandeur of this passage is not comparable to that of Galerie Vivienne nor Galerie Colbert. Though this Passage does indeed house shops and even a place to eat, it does not exude the same attitude of class and simple luxury that, for example, the Galerie Vivienne does, despite the fact that within the past few years, there has been an attempt to return the passage to its old glory by renovation.
One main aspect of most Passages is the glass ceiling. This provides the present day shopper and past day flaneur the ability to wander the streets outside, as they are still exposed to the natural lighting of the day, yet protect them from the elements. This allows them to indulge in the simple act of people watching no matter the weather, which is the perfect cure for the occasional case of boredom. However, upon walking into this passage, one can immediately notice that the ceiling within it does not exude the same luxurious nature that some of the other passages we have focused on have. Though the glass ceiling was redone, along with the rest of the passage being renovated in 2013, it noticeably lacks the grandness that several other passages portray ("Passage Choiseul - Office De Tourisme Paris"). Secondly, observing the floor, a seemingly miniscule detail, we again are able to notice that the Passage Choiseul lacks a certain attention to detail. Covered in generic tile all the way through, it pales in comparison to that of the Galerie Vivienne’s mosaic floor and Galerie Colbert’s stone floor. Again, the passage has been recently redone, thus it has indeed improved from its past condition, however it still seems to be lacking a certain ornateness that the others possess. This detail does not, by an means, make the Passage Choiseul an undesirable place to go, yet it does not provide the same deluxe feel as compared to others.
Additionally, the lighting is an interesting aspect of Passage Choiseul. Again, after its renovation, several light fixtures were added to the walls, improving the overall tone of the passage and making it feel slightly nicer than it was in the past with its simple bulb lighting. Before visiting the passage, the pictures on the internet only show glimpses of the old lighting, so getting to experience the new fixture installations was a pleasant surprise and coincidently proved that an aspect as simple as lighting can add a little bit more luxury to a space. Furthermore, the overall ambiance of the Passage Choiseul is interesting to think about in a historical sense regarding the transition from passages to department stores after Haussmanization. For the most part, the transition from the luxurious passages, such as the Galerie Vivienne, to department stores such as the Galeries Lafayette and Le Bon Marché make sense, as the visitors and flâneurs were simply changing their scenery, yet the atmosphere of each place was relatively similar. This is to say, flâneurs were simply transitioning to walking around and shopping within a large, enclosed building as opposed to a narrow and long passage. However, it is interesting to think about the crowd that the Galerie Choiseul was catered towards and whether or not they actively took part in the transition from passages to department stores. Upon first-hand experience, it seems as if this passage might cater towards a different crowd, as it does not emphasize luxury goods or a grandiose experience, as several of the other passages and department stores do. With flâneurs commonly using passages as an activity of leisure, it makes sense that there were some passages that were more glamerous, catering towards a higher-end crowd, and passages that were more basic, catering towards a lower class crowd. However, with the creation of department stores, and after exploring these department stores of Paris today, there seems to be a lack of lower-end, more affordable establishments. This begs the question if the lower class were stripped of their ability to enjoy flâneurie within this transition. Additionally, with several of the passages disappearing throughout time, this suggests reasons for Choiseul’s renovation within the past few years, attempting to make it a more appealing place, in order to draw in a greater amount of upper class people and tourists in order to keep the passage itself alive.
One link that I was able to observe between the passages, including Passage Choiseul, and department stores is their attempt to create an ambiance that makes the visitor want to stay for an extended period of time. Though passages are long and narrow and can naturally induce the feeling of quickly window shopping and exiting through the opposite entrance, Passage Choiseul actually has options for dining within it. This encourages the everyday passerby to sit and stay awhile, subsequently forcing them to take in all that is surrounding them. Department stores can also be seen doing this with their ever-improving food courts and markets that provide a nice break from shopping.
A main aspect of the Passage Choiseul that I especially appreciated and took notice of was the authenticity of the surrounding space. Though I would not describe the space as glamerous, I did appreciate how it appears that original character of the space still remains. This can be seen in the window treatments that appear to be relatively untouched, giving the visitor the feeling of being in an outdoor setting, simply with a roof added over their heads. This is an aspect that is lacking in the Galerie Vivienne, as it has been beautified to such an extent that it feels as if the décor was tailored to tourists and the high class, without the intention of preserving the actual authenticity of the space but rather providing a space that felt as if it was full of history, yet in actuality, it is a bit more glamorized to attract more visitors. This is the main aspect of the Passage Choiseul that I grew to appreciate upon visiting it, and is the main thing that I believe sets it apart from the previous passages mentioned as well as most department stores. The originality and character that the passage houses, though it might not be luxurious, makes it feel more rife with history than the others.

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