When I try to calculate the approximate weight of the iron that went into this garden, I arrive at millions of kilograms. But it's only by reflection that one thinks about it. This orgy of scrap metal is not intoxicating everywhere, but there is nothing that shocks the eye.
The gates are generally beautiful. I would prefer it if there were none, and if the secondary toll were abolished, but the Commission does not hear of this: it has even leased the chairs in the garden. So if you like to sit among the trees, you have to pay ten cents for the chair and fifty for the trees. It is a stunt of inhospitality, and the least happy of all, but I leave it to outsiders to criticise our pettiness.
The large courtyard gate, by Barbezat, seems to me to be the major piece. It is a piece that does credit to French ironwork. The gate by M. Roy comes next in order of merit. The one by M. Gandillot, less artistic, has the advantage of being less expensive: it is made of hollow iron. I really appreciate the work of M. Maury, this opening in the fence to allow the public to see the beautiful garden for free. I think it would be right and good to open similar openings everywhere for honest people who do not have a franc in their pocket. The cost of the Exhibition is felt by the poor as well as the rich: it is the least they can do to compensate themselves a little with their eyes.
The most beautiful wrought-iron kiosk seems to be that of Mr. Grassin Balédans; that of Mr. Tronchon is pretty, of delicate workmanship but of an indecisive style and an unfortunate colour. This blue will never, ever, come off well on a green background. Mr. Carré's pavilion, Mr. Thiry's young aviary and its two kiosks are works of undeniable merit, and the rustic iron kiosk for the sale of bouquets does not look bad. But if I have to say what I think about it, the most beautiful wrought iron kiosk says nothing to my eyes or my heart. In things of pure pleasure, all my instincts resist the most resistant of metals. Let the fences and entrance gates be forged, nothing better: it is a matter of defending a property. Let the chairs and benches in the garden be made of a more or less elastic material; they have to be, because the rain would corrupt any other material. But a gazebo is a place of rest which must satisfy two conditions: it must be comfortable and the construction must decorate the landscape. But iron is not only cold, hard, angular, and uncomfortable in essence; it can only produce sparse lines that chop up the landscape like mincemeat, without offering a single plane on which the eye can rest. I admit iron bridges, even in a garden, and iron parapets too, because one cannot be too careful; I do not admit that iron disguises itself as wood, and especially as rustic wood. Each material has its own utility and its own beauty; iron painted in wood has always seemed to me as ridiculous as wood painted in iron.
As for cement bridges and kiosks, do they cost significantly less than wood?
Do they last much longer? If they do, we will recommend them to embarrassed or thrifty owners; if not, we will stick to this charming little resting place of real wood, truly rustic, which does credit to the exhibitor's taste.
©L'Exposition Universelle de 1867 Illustrée