In many cities, growth has led to a situation where the metropolitan area is considerably bigger than the city proper. Paris, where the city limits remain frozen as they were in 1860, is an extreme case of this phenomenon.
Today only 21% of dwellers of the Parisian “urban unit” live in the municipality of Paris, which covers a scant 4% of the metropolitan territory. This situation hampers policy development and implementation for the metropolis and is increasingly seen as an unnecessary handicap for Paris in the global competition among cities.
The question, in this election year, is whether Paris will be able to achieve its first expansion in more than 150 years, whether it will finally be able to give itself a government at the scale of the metropolis.
The Île de la Cité can appear to be just another timeless part of Paris, untouched for centuries, to be preserved as it is and has always been. In reality, it is a relatively recently remodeled space, one of the least successful of the undertakings of George-Eugène Haussmann while he was Prefect of the Seine. It is, I believe, one of Paris’s major twenty-first century urban planning challenges, one that will play a critical role in signaling what kind of city Paris is to become.
The new Batignolles neighborhood is going up in the north-west of Paris. Well before the rest of the area is ready, the City of Paris has opened up a public park, the Parc Martin Luther King. Although it is in the middle of a construction site and vacant lots, with the buildings that would presumably provide its patrons not even built yet, this park is already vibrant and lively, completely appropriated by the residents of the area.
Construction begins this week on the new Place de la République, a project 150 years in the making.
At 300 yards by 130 yards, the Place de la République is one of the largest squares in Europe. But its lay-out has been a problem that has bedeviled urban designers since Gabriel Davioud was first entrusted with its design in the 1860s.
The Bercy neighborhood is frequently used an example of successful contemporary urban planning. One of its successes it to have created a real neighborhood out of nothing on an initially unpromising site. But the other, perhaps more distinctive characteristic of this operation is to have created an urban form which is highly ordered yet diverse, modern yet still recognizably in the tradition of Parisian urban design. It was worth telling the story of this exemplary urban project.
On April 29th, 2009, the day of the opening of the public display of the work of the ten teams of the international consultation, President Sarkozy gave a speech. His words were ambitious: “[The future city] may be the greatest political challenge of the twenty-first century. I want France to meet that challenge. I want France to give the example. That is the ambition of Le Grand Paris.“
Anyone could be forgiven for being confused about what is going on with Le Grand Paris, Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidential ambition to reinvent Greater Paris for the future. This week, Sarkozy gave a speech at the Cité de l’Architecture marking four years since his initial speech, in the same venue, announcing Le Grand Paris. A perfect opportunity for a summary of where we stand. Continue reading →