In the summer of 2008, in much more optimistic times, the French government hired design teams of internationally known architects to put Paris back on the drawing board to re-imagine the capital as a "world class city." The teams have come up with 10 strategies for creating a metropolitan area known as Grand Paris – it's the first major redesign since the Napoleonic era.
The various ideas being proposed all seek address what most Parisian feel is wrong with the city-its public transit system saturated, its periphery spoiled by ugly housing projects, and its suburbs an undefined sprawl of disconnected towns – does not work. "It's slowly losing its vitality," says award-winning Paris architect Jean Nouvel. "What we laughingly call regional development is finished. If we want to maintain the prestige of Paris, we have to look after it."
These architectural teams, six of them French, were given the mission of envisioning the "post-Kyoto" metropolis. They were left to define the boundaries of this newly conceived Grand Paris as they saw fit, but it was to incorporate the best of sustainable design techniques, energy efficient structures, and a mix of housing for both rich and poor.
Most of the planners urged intense use of space within the limits of historic Paris. They talked of high-speed trams on top of the beltways, malls on top of subway stations, and gardens on the five square miles of rooftops in Paris. A new mixed-use neighborhood in the center of Paris could arise, they said, if only the neglected stretch of land between the Gare du Nord and Gare de l'Est train stations in central Paris were freed up for private development.
President Sarkozy is expected to define which of the various plans to follow up on when they go on public view at the national architecture museum next month though current details are still a little sketchy.
Other than the image above of Roland Castro's proposed "Central Park France" and Jean Nouvel's concept, I really haven't seen anything concrete to get a good sense of just what is being proposed so I'm not sure how to critic these plans. Still, the idea to completely revamp the infrastructure, especially the transportation system is a very good idea (something we are still trying to fix here in the States). So I am looking forward to seeing more of these proposals.
Image obtained from: www.csmonitor.com