I continue my exploration of the petite couronne, the ring of municipalities around Paris proper that are at the center of the transformation of greater Paris. Today I travel south-east to Choisy-le-Roi, surely one of the most disconcerting mixes of periods and urban typologies from the eighteenth to the twenty-first century to be found anywhere.
Choisy-le-Roi already existed as a village, with its own parish church, when a palace was built there in the mid-seventeenth century, roughly at the same time as work began on Versailles. A century later, Louis XV took possession of the palace and its grounds and commissioned his architect, Jacques-Ange Gabriel, to lay out a new town center and build a cathedral. This history is what gives the “le roi” part of the town’s name and what accounts for it having some genuine eighteenth-century architectural and urban heritage. The palace has disappeared, but its park is a much-appreciated green space in the center of town.
Choisy-le-Roi only really began its growth in the mid-nineteenth century, with the development of a number of factories. By the 1920s the town had more than 20,000 inhabitants. From this period date the many “maisons à pierre meulière,” houses typical of the Paris suburbs built with a special siliceous stone, as well as apartment buildings of worker housing.
The post-World War II period brought a new wave of buildings, and especially the redesign of the town center. Implemented from 1957 to 1977, the scheme for residential towers on a raised concrete pedestrian platform turned into one of the most clamorous failures in the history of French urban planning. The mall, meant to be one of a series of vibrant centers of commerce in the Paris suburbs, is now one of the most down-at-the-heal shopping galleries one is likely to encounter anywhere. The three towers of housing that were built as part of the complex, however, have a certain character and play an important role in giving the center of Choisy-le-Roi its identity.
Choisy-le-Roi is not directly affected by the new Grand Paris automated high-speed subway line, which will pass to the north. But the town is well connected, both by the regional express network (RER) and by the Trans-Val-de-Marne dedicated-lane bus service which crosses the town.
In the last few years Choisy-le-Roi has been pursuing an active development policy, most notably in the town center and in the area along the Seine and the railway line, where office buildings are now rising. More broadly, it is part of the territory covered by the Opération d’Intérêt Nationale Orly-Rungis-Seine Amont. It is therefore very much partaking in the general revitalization of suburban Greater Paris.