Blueprint for a new Paris

Grand Paris

Grand Paris :: exposition :: Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine :: 29 April 2009 – 22 November 2009

In the ever urbanizing world post-Kyoto, cities face the challenge of creating an ecologically balanced, pleasant and efficient metropolis for future generations. In June 2007, the French president Nicolas Sarkozy commissioned 10 architect and urban planning agencies to propose a vision for Paris 2030. These projects are now presented to the public at the Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine under the name Grand Pari(s).

What you can see

The exposition does not do justice to neither the excitement and magnitude of the project nor to the elabourate work which was put into it. The 10 agencies all present themselves using multi-media technology in booths too small to cater for the affluence, and their presentations are too brief to be seriously contemplated. There is, however, an excellent exposition overview book to compensate (see below).

Who was commissioned

Six French architects including Jean Nouvel, Yves Lion, Christian de Portzamparc, Antoine Grumbach, Roland Castro and l’AUC, plus the Dutch practice MVRDV, Germany’s LIN, the UK’s RSH+P and Italy’s Studio 09.

What you can read

There are quite a few options, but the best introduction is surely the  exposition’s overview book, Le Grand Pari(s). It is available in the museum bookshop for 29€ and covers the 10 different projects with the agencies’ own words and with plenty of images to bring it to life. It is prefaced by president Sarkozy, who explains the need for not only new urban planning but also for administrative reform for the Paris region, and the challenges of the Kyoto protocol.

What is going to happen

The different projects should not really be seen as a competition, as with large prestigious public buildings,President Sarkozy has ear-marked 35 billion euros initially for the development of the capital. Presumably, the vision of Antoine Grumbach, with the city of Paris following the Seine to Le Havre, will be developed with priority. Also, presumably 20 billion euros will be invested into the 140 km long new fully automatic metro line which is to circle the city linking new developments and the airports.

Critiques

Several British newspapers criticized the entire project in times of recession and social upheaval. It is worth remembering that the project was launched in a pre-recession 2007. But even besides that, the timing is not inappropriate, as the most common anti-financial crisis measures taken by countries has been mass investment into the economy. Public works is a long term investment which equates, in this case, to a projected 35 billion euros investment over the coming years. Improving infrastructure and the attractiveness of the city are worthy destinations for the capital injection, especially considering that they are destined to create jobs and activity in the troubled suburbs. A recent poll by the newspaper Le Parisien amongst the residents gave a staggering 70% approval rating to the project as an economic booster.

From the general public, voices have been heard worrying about the destruction of a beautiful city. These people should not overly worry, the project will not create a highway cutting trough Ille Saint Louis. The French capital is one of the most visited cities in the world and loved by its inhabitants. The project is intended to re-shape the city (12 million people) by improving the interaction with the suburbs, through remodeling, improving transport, changing the political structure, reshuffling economic and administrative focal points. The general idea would be to integrate the suburbs with the city, as to make a greater whole of the parts. And that, in an ecologically and aesthetically sound package.

NB More about the projects will follow, right here.

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