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From good to great: the progressive transformation of Paris

August 29, 2012

Over the last decade, Paris has had the reputation of resting on its laurels and was something of a sleeping beauty among the main European cities. Its counterparts, with Berlin and London leading the way, grabbed the attention thanks to their dynamism and ability to evolve and epitomize the 21st century. Things are changing however and the old clichés of Paris with its cobble-stone streets and Haussmann buildings may soon be challenged by futuristic buildings emerging from the ground a bit everywhere.

The projects are all part of the “Great Paris”, a program put into place in 2008 in order to boost the capital’s role on the international scene. The goal of the project is to better integrate the suburbs, to improve the public transportation system and to make Paris more accessible both nationally and internationally. Therefore, all aspects of daily life will be impacted: the metro, with new lines being created, the banks of the River Seine, stadiums or airports. Some of these remarkable projects are already taking form -like the renovation of the Chatelet Les Halles district for instance – while others have just been validated and should not become reality before a decade. All of them are supposed to reconcile environmental concerns with architectural needs.

The most talented architects are taking part in international bids. Jean Nouvel for instance is in charge of 2 projects: the Cinq, in the 13th arrondissement and the Philarmonie, a concert hall in the 20th arrondissement, in the heart of the Villette Park. Frank Gehry, the internationally-acclaimed architect, is in charge of the Louis Vuitton foundation, a building bound to become a Parisian landmark since Gehry himself claims it will be the climax of his career. The building will be located in the 16th arrondissement of Paris in the “Jardind’Acclimatation” in the Bois de Boulogne. It will host the art collections of Bernard Arnaud, the CEO of the LVMH conglomerate. The building will have the shape of a cloud made of steel and glass panels. Works are already underway and should be finished by 2014.

Other projects are sources of disputes. That’s the case of the Triangle Tower in the 15th arrondissement, which will be one of the tallest buildings in Paris. As its name indicates, the tower will have the shape of a pyramid. For a city that long prevented the construction of high rises, this project is extremely controversial. The examples of the Beaugrenelle district or the Montparnasse tower still fuel the debate…

Among other projects, it is worth mentioning the renovation of the Samaritaine department store in the 1st arrondissement, the revamping of the Jean Bouin stadium in the 16th, the enlargement of the Roland Garros stadium or the edification of the highest tower in Europe, the “Phare Tower” in the Defense district.

Paris lovers should not worry too much: every single project is closely monitored by independent architects in order to preserve historic buildings. There is however little doubt that the Parisian landscape and skyline is going to largely evolve in the coming years.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 29, 2012 7:58 pm

    Great idea; take a wonderful unique city and take steps to ensure that it ‘ competes ‘ with other capitals, by introducing ugly high rise buildings by ‘ starchitects ‘. What a shame Le Corbusier never got to level the city centre and introduce his parks, towers and motorways. Can’t stand in the way of progress.

    • August 29, 2012 10:28 pm

      Speaking for myself, I am not in favor of high rises but I must admit some of the projects are very interesting from an architectural perspective (the Louis Vuitton foundation for instance is quite fascinating in my opinion) and will have a very limited impact on the city’s skyline. But I totally understand your point of view! Thanks for the comment!

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