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Ever-changing Paris Posted by on Mar 2, 2021 in Culture

Paris, like most big cities, is ever changing. And with the JO de 2024 on the horizon, ever-changing Paris is getting ready to change again!

A remarkably unified city…

For all of its history of change, Paris is really a truly remarkably harmonious and unified city. Much of that can be attributed to the work of Napoléon III and one Georges Eugène Haussmann, dit baron Haussmann, préfet de la Seine de 1853 à 1870. Together these hommes politiques1politicians, lit. political men oversaw a wholesale redesign of 19th century Paris right down to the mobilier urbain2urban landscape (lit. urban furniture/furnishings) (from the fameux kiosques3famous news stands right down to les grilles qui protègent la base des arbres4grates protecting the base of trees).

In under 20 years, Paris was transformed with:
Soixante-dix voies nouvelles,570 new roads
Neuf ponts créés ou élargies,69 enlarged or new bridges
40 000 immeubles de construits,740,000 buildings built; almost half of the buildings standing in Paris today are from this building boom!
80 000 arbres de plantés!880,000 trees planted

Pour aller plus loin … this fun Karambolage from Arte was the source of much of the above. You can also check out this excellent documentary film from Des Racines et des Ailes.

… Adapting to the 21st Century!

Major changes to the city have historically not always been well received. From the Eiffel Tower9Originally only intended to stand for 20 years, the Tower – now one of world’s most recognized and most visited monuments – was protested even before it was built! to the Centre Pompidou to the Pyramide du Louvre (see below), the French often take time to warm to the new.

But as much as Parisians love their city, keeping up with the times requires change. Responding to a new economy, a crowded city, and an impending major moment on the global stage has resulted in a spate of new planned enhancements and additions.

A new look for la tour Montparnasse

One of the less popular 20th century additions to the Paris skyline was the tour Montparnasse. At a little more than 200 m tall, the black glass office tower, built in the early 1970’s, was roundly criticized for its lack of harmony with the rest of the city and skyline10The tower was so unpopular that it resulted in an almost 40 year ban on buildings of more than 7 stories anywhere inside the city limits!.

After almost half a century, the tower and surrounding area are soon to get a major makeover as part of the ambitious Demain Montparnasse project that seeks to “faire le trait d’union entre la tradition, l’histoire de Montparnasse, incarnées notamment par la culture et la vie artistique, et son avenir, le renouveau de Paris, qui ambitionne de redevenir la capitale de la modernité11connect the history and traditions of Montparnasse, notably its culture and artistic life, with its future as part of a renovated Paris, seeking to once again be the capital of modernity

Read more about the plans here and be sure to check out the accompanying video to see a virtual tour of the new tour12tower. Or check out this great reportage for an overview of the history and future of the tower.

Vers un Paris plus sain … et plus vert!13For (lit. towards) a healthier … and greener … Paris!

I’ve always found Paris to be an imminently walkable and livable city. Over the next 10 years, two other announced projects will make it even more so.

The first, a €250 million project announced by the Marie de Paris, will see the axis Place de la Concorde-Étoile reconceptualized into “un jardin extraordinaire14an extraordinary garden. Beginning with the Place de la Concorde ahead of the JO 2024, and then moving up the Champs-Elysées in the years afterwards, the project will placent les piétons au coeur15pedestrians at the center (lit. in the heart) with more space for people and less focus on cars.

Read about the planned work here and check out this virtual tour to see what les Champs-Elysées de demain16the Champs Elysées of tomorrow might look like.

The second project will also benefit pedestrians … and trees … when cars and other vehicles take a back seat between the place du Trocadéro and l’École Militaire around the Eiffel Tower. “Le mot d’ordre, plus de verdure et presque plus aucunes véhicules.”17the order of the day: more greenery and almost no vehicles … even on the pont d’Iéna which will become une éspace verte18a green space. Learn more and see some concept art here.

Interested in learning more? I found this cool site dedicated to tracking major projects in and around Paris that will let you dive into these projects and many more!

France and le Grand Paris

French Architecture – The Louvre Pyramid

Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

  • 1
    politicians, lit. political men
  • 2
    urban landscape (lit. urban furniture/furnishings)
  • 3
    famous news stands
  • 4
    grates protecting the base of trees
  • 5
    70 new roads
  • 6
    9 enlarged or new bridges
  • 7
    40,000 buildings built; almost half of the buildings standing in Paris today are from this building boom!
  • 8
    80,000 trees planted
  • 9
    Originally only intended to stand for 20 years, the Tower – now one of world’s most recognized and most visited monuments – was protested even before it was built!
  • 10
    The tower was so unpopular that it resulted in an almost 40 year ban on buildings of more than 7 stories anywhere inside the city limits!
  • 11
    connect the history and traditions of Montparnasse, notably its culture and artistic life, with its future as part of a renovated Paris, seeking to once again be the capital of modernity
  • 12
    tower
  • 13
    For (lit. towards) a healthier … and greener … Paris!
  • 14
    an extraordinary garden
  • 15
    pedestrians at the center (lit. in the heart)
  • 16
    the Champs Elysées of tomorrow
  • 17
    the order of the day: more greenery and almost no vehicles
  • 18
    a green space
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About the Author: Tim Hildreth

Lise: Maybe not always. Paris has ways of making people forget. / Jerry: Paris? No, not this city. It's too real and too beautiful. It never lets you forget anything. It reaches in and opens you wide, and you stay that way. / An American in Paris


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