Eighty years after having been phased out, the tramway has made a triumphant return to Paris. This fall, three major extensions are being opened to the public. Construction is underway on several new lines. This once-forgotten form of transportation is again becoming part of the daily life of Parisians.
None of the tramway lines cross Paris proper, but they participate in the creation of a dense multi-modal network across the first ring of municipalities surrounding Paris. Even more importantly, these tramway lines are not being approached only as isolated pieces of transportation infrastructure. Instead, they are driving and accompanying major urban projects in the territories they cross. The urban role of the tramway in contemporary Paris is a story worth knowing.
This weekend I am in New York, speaking at Columbia University as part of the Urban History Association’s annual conference. I’ll be discussing the idea of cosmopolitanism as it relates to urban planning in the first years of the Second Empire (1852-1855). An excerpt of my talk appears below.
The Place Joachim du Bellay, a stone’s throw from Les Halles, is a popular crossroads for people to just hang out. But unbeknownst to many of its current users, this little square has an extraordinarily deep and textured history. It is a premiere example of how Paris today is the sum of many layers of remarkable and at times unexpected history.
Photographs of Paris (and other places) by Marina Agostini, a young photographer and architect whose sensibility I greatly appreciate. Please visit a more complete selection of her work at parallelplans.tumblr.com.
Photographs reproduced by permission of the artist
My piece on Seine Rive Gauche, billed as the largest urban project in Paris since Haussmann, generated a great deal of interest. This week I return to the area to check up on progress, and find development continuing along the whole length of the site.
This project is mobilizing considerable resources and is calling on France’s best architecture and urban design talents. Whatever one things of the design choices, it certainly represents a return to the spirit of urban ambition that made Paris what it is.
Starting today, the Dutch Institute in Paris shows Gare du Nord, an exhibition that retraces Paris from the 1920s to the 1960s as portrayed by photographers from the Netherlands. Sensitively curated, this is a very exciting show, well worth the visit for anyone with a love for photography, Dutch art and culture, or Paris. And why, indeed, should one not love all three!
The spectacular breadth and quality of the iconography spawned by Paris is, alone, a demonstration of the importance of this city in human culture.
Taschen has published an imposing photographic portrait of Paris, bolstered by an excellent text. It is a volume indispensable to anyone who wants a definitive – or as definitive as one can be in the limited space of 572 pages – iconographic recounting of the last 150 years in the life of Paris. Continue reading →