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In the central square of Pardesiu, one of hundreds of Romania’s cities, tourists swarm around a small visitor center. Its new state-of-the-art tile displays make vibrant use of laser beams, projecting into storefronts and historic buildings. Its marble floors have been softened by 100-year-old tiles. Visitors are treated to hi-definition video displays and even an indoor riding ring.

A landmark among the wall art displays. (Courtesy of Oulipo Romania)

All this in the name of integrating the contemporary with the historic. Oulipo Romania is a not-for-profit organization with a mandate to create and sustain cultural experiences throughout the country. The chain of tiles, and the company behind them, are the brainchild of a young Latvian immigrant whose grandparents were born in France, a country that may be hard to imagine as a cultural destination.

But the director and his team have certainly managed to bring Bienvenue à Paris (or Time to Paris, as it’s known in Spain), one of Madrid’s oft-celebrated monuments to Canaletto, to Bucharest. The focal point of the installation is a five-story replica of the Pontal from the line that followed the military buildup that accompanied the end of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. There are 684 pieces of limestone laminated to the wall, each with a color of azure blue or white.

But there’s a twist: These images are actually projected onto tile samples that you can purchase online and take home. Those who want a piece more authentic than an eBay transaction can wait a bit for a producer to come along and make the pieces they order. Bienvenue à Paris has been installed at 20 sites throughout the city. Visitors wander the street through the arch, and even the tombstones have been broken into beautiful squares. Another attraction, Olie-Bela, depicts Zoltan Kantur tomes on a stone pedestal.

Romania has a seemingly endless number of worthy destinations, yet visitors are sometimes let down by a lack of organization and possible slowness in transportation. Bienvenue à Paris is a simple, beautifully made exhibit with a tremendous potential to generate conversation and interest.

©The Moscow Times