Take a walk down Paris's Albert Einstein Street
And you'll find out why the notable physicist was so popular in France.
Not just anybody can get a street named after them in Paris. The honor is usually reserved for the giants of French history and, to a much lesser extent, the world: Benjamin Franklin, Isaac Newton and Galileo Galilei are among the select few non-Frenchmen whose names you can spot on street signs. An elite crowd if there ever was one.
It's no surprise, then, that Albert Einstein has also received the honor – though only recently, in 2006 – when what was then a private street in the city's 13th Arrondissement became public and needed a new name.
The honor wasn't merely made out of respect to Einstein's place in the annals of science. He was in fact no stranger to the city, and in his most high-profile visit lectured there in March and April of 1922, the same year he won the Nobel Prize for Physics.
When Einstein arrived that spring, he was welcomed at the border by French physicist Paul Langevin and the French astronomer Charles Nordmann. Together, they took a five-hour train ride into Paris where a throng of journalists and well-wishers was waiting to welcome Einstein. In a letter to his wife, Einstein wrote that his stay in Paris was "absolutely splendid."
While spanning just two blocks and a mere 180 yards, the street is home to several important structures.
Paris Diderot University, one of France's most distinguished universities, moved to the neighborhood the same year the street was named for Einstein and today has three of its newest buildings located there.
Olympe de Gouges, a nine-story building named after one of France's first feminist writers and which houses facilities for Paris Diderot University's engineering school, backs up to it. Across the street is the Sophie Germain building, nearly half a block long and home to mathematics and computer facilities. A few doors down is a modern student dormitory.
Another highlight of Albert Einstein Street (or Rue Albert Einstein as it's known to the French) sits at its southeastern edge and rises 165 feet in the air – no small thing in a city that limits building height to 121 feet. The exception was made because the Tower of Biodiversity by architect Edouard François is, simply put, exceptional.
The tower was finished earlier this year. François wrote on his website of both its practical and symbolic importance to the city:
"Covered with plants from wild natural areas, our building is a tool for seeding: it allows the wind to spread class one purebred seeds into the urban environment. Its height is a key element for its capacity to regenerate urban biodiversity. Its titanium cladding generates moiré patterns that give it a subtle, fluctuating character. The tower is thus not only a tool for neighborhood development but also a tool for development on a bigger scale as it distills a green aura to the Parisian cityscape."
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