This is a rough journal of what I've found on the P.C. as well as during walks around Paris.
samedi 2 août 2008
It seems that poverty has preserved the Petite Ceinture elsewhere in Paris. Now, however, the expanding ripples of wealth spreading toward the outside of Paris mean that the Petite Ceinture is threatened elsewhere - and possibly in more disruptive ways than in the West of Paris. The 'Paris Rive Gauche' is a 350+ acre development that stretches along the Seine, south of Gare d'Austerlitz to the Petite Ceinture. Tracks there have been removed, and significant earthworks are evident around and along the line. It is unclear whether there is any intention to restore the tracks; it is hard to imagine a need to do so. As part of the 'Paris Rive Gauche', the neighboring boulevards are being widened. One central artery, Avenue de France, is under construction, and is depicted in many maps as eventually running directly over the Petite Ceinture where a large steel truss bridge now spans the Ivry-sur-Seine rail lines. Further East, near Parc de Bercy, there are plans to develop public housing on the track.
mercredi 23 juillet 2008
Parks, their proximity to the Petite Ceinture, and what this might mean for the future of the Ceinture
Indeed, the Petite Ceinture is integrated into the concept of Parc Buttes Chaumont as a ‘reclaimed’ industrial site, bringing attention to the infrastructure. The railway is exposed in a trench along most of the east side of the park. Look outs are situated adjacent to the track. A bridge was constructed over the track, and a restaurant sits above the mouth of the tunnel, looking along the track, as it is oriented on axis with the track itself (pictured below).
This notion of ‘public infrastructure expressed’, particularly with regard to transport, is common throughout
Large steel and iron trusses carry passengers above ground, supporting gathering spaces, commerce, and pedestrian throughways beneath. In turn, the metro passenger experiences their city in a way that the underground metro, pedestrian, cycle, or vehicular transport does not afford. The
More recent parks have continued the traditions of building toward the periphery of
Toward the West end of the park the
Parc de la Villette (designed by Bernard Tschumi (furniture by Phillippe Starck) in 1982, in consultation with French philosopher Gilles Deleuze) also sits on an abandoned industrial site - the old slaughter house district, and its design is ostensibly geared towards bringing the observer’s attention to the history and infrastructure of the site. Canal de l’Ourcq, which once brought livestock from the North-east of
The Petite Ceinture runs within .1 miles of the southern edge of the Parc, near the “access ouest”. The P.C. and the parc share an exceptional view of one another at the point where the Petite Ceinture crosses the Canal de l’Ourcq along a heavy truss bridge.
It is arguable that the Bamboo garden pictured below (Alexandre Chemetev), within Parc de la Villette, is more successful than Parc de la Villette in bringing attention to its position relative to the surrounding infrastructure. Weepholes in the wall register the moisture content in the soil, which is effected by the leakage of water into the soil from the nearby canal.This creates a micro climate – warmer and moister – that facilitates the growth of a wide varibamboo that would be otherwise unable to grow in Paris. As is true throughout much of
Parc de Bercy, pictured below, (designed and built between 1993-1997 by architects Bernard Huet, Madeleine Ferrand, Jean-Pierre Feugas, Bernard Leroy, and landscape architects Ian Le Caisne and Phillippe Raguin) is in the South-East of Paris, running along the Right bank of the Seine. It occupies the strip of land once designated to the reception and storage of wine from the South of France. Railway tracks, cobbled alleys, mature plane (Platon/sycamores) trees that once shaded the wine barrels, and wine cellars have been integrated into the design of this park. The Petite Ceinture once connected to this railyard, and the line passes within ¼ mile from the south-eastern edge of the Parc.Other, smaller parks dot the periphery of
Jardin de la Gare de Charonne, below, in the east (20eme), occupies a small lot adjacent to the Petite Ceinture.
The Promenade Plantee, which is a comparable and useful precedent for sites such as the Petite Ceinture or the New York High Line, and Square Charles Peguy (designed by Jacques Vergely, landscape architect, and Phillippe Mathieux, architect) is a reclaimed rail viaduct that was once a spur from the Petite Ceinture towards Gare de Lyon. The Promenade Plantee and the Petite Ceinture intersect in the South-East of Paris, just north of Parc de Bercy.
Jardin du Moulin de la Pointe and Jardin Juan Miro, are in the South of Paris (13eme), near the Porte d'Italie. They are both modestly sized. Jardin du Moulin de la Pointe covers much of the surface of the P.C. tunnel running between Rue du Moulin de la Pointe and Ave. Pl. de l'Italie. Parc George Brassens, pictured above and below, (opened in 1974) is an 8.7 hectare park that ooccupies an old abbatoir district in the South of Paris (14eme). The Petite Ceinture runs under the park, and along the full stretch of its southern edge.
In the South-West corner of Paris, south of Parc Andre Citroen, is Square Carlo Sarrabezolles. It is just south of the Petite Ceinture, near Pont Carrigliano, on the other side of the Maracheux.
Much of the Petite Ceinture along the Western edge of Paris (mostly in the 16eme) is now parkway - on grade, with tracks removed. The remainder has been filled in and consists of parking lots, tennis courts and small community parks. This western stretch of the Ceinture is interrupted in the middle of the Western edge of Paris by Jardin Ranelegh (early 1900's).
Parc Clichy Batignolles, pictured in the middle of the image below, (opened in 2007) is a 4.5 hectare garden in the North-East of Paris (17eme), taking the place of obsolete railyards and sheds near Junction St. Lazare. It aims to bridge the existing green space of inner Paris (specifically Square Batignolles, at the bottom of the picture) with the suburbs beyond the Peripherique.
Increasing focus is being placed on this area of Paris, and considerable development is due to occur around the Park. The Petite Ceinture runs within .1 mile of the North end of the Parc, and would run through the middle of the development pictured above (looking North).
dimanche 20 juillet 2008
"Flying Carpet" - according to the article:
It runs along a single tram track, using it as a monorail, its wheels propelled by an electric motor. The cushion lies on top of a mechanical system that allows the driver to balance wh en seated in the Lotus position. This posture not only mimics the operation of a “real” flying carpet, but also links body posture to movement in a way that driver has to be Zen to operate …The experience of driving Tapis Volant is semi-automated: The vehicle glides along the tracks, accelerated by the act of tilting forward and comes to a standstill when leaning back.
Cabin Taxi, Germany. As part of a movement to develop autonomous movement along a common rail system, Germany funded a project that involved pods that could be self controlled and would run along an elevated rail network.
Rail Velo, designed by artists Raphael Zarka and Vincent Lamaroux. This seems to be the neatest marriage between an ARV and the local taste for bicycles. I wonder how you could institute a system of public Rail Velos (like the Velib), without running into difficulties such as people biking at different speeds, or turning off the main track to park the bike.
vendredi 18 juillet 2008
jeudi 12 juin 2008
And this is the view from the top (if you can open it in a separate window it's cooler)....
Paris almost seems small from this point. In the middle are the Pompidou Center and Notre Dame, with a line of Paris' rare few skyscrapers and the Pantheon in the background....
And this is top of the hill - Sacre Coeur (kinda ridiculous looking, and not very Parisian even though it's in the top three Parisian icons - one cool thing about it is that it's made of self cleaning stone, so it gets gradually whiter every year) - it's covered in tourists during the day, then replaced by drinkers, pot smokers and street performers at night. The steps are not self cleaning and smell awful. We saw french break dancing. It looks like American break dancing. And a flame person...pretty mesmerizing
And this was the Doge and I deciding to be 80's rockers in front of one of the Moulins.
samedi 7 juin 2008
Jay and I have been wandering Paris since he arrived six days ago, visiting museums and buildings of interest both new and old (mostly old). A trip to Villa Savoye means our first journey outside Central Paris, and a glimpse of one of Corbusier's most iconic buildings. The Villa Savoye (Villa Savoir in French) is a pilgrimage site for anyone with any interest in modern architecture - so for two architecture students this was like meeting a celebrity - putting a face to a name we've heard a thousand times.
We woke late to an overcast day, had a typically slow breakfast, and went from Metro to RER (A5), passing tens of 'Immeubles' - the hideous descendents of Corb's Unite - on our way out to Poissy (40km almost due west of Paris), where we caught the bus (50 to La Coudriae) to the gate of the Villa. The entrance as it is now, is unremarkable; a white metal mesh gate in a white wall identical to any of those next to it. We walked down the winding gravel driveway beyond the gate, and one of the first things we saw was a gate house - something neither Jay nor I had ever seen in photos or heard of in books or lectures. The guide book (Deborah Gans' The Le Corbusier Guide - excellent so far) doesn't mention anything about it. We wondered whether it is original.....
The path continues for about 200 feet through the mature, and naturalistic grove of trees, until it empties out onto a large, lawn-covered clearing - as if like Vitruvius' well manicured clearing. The Villa is central.
The doge had recently re-read an article about the house, and chose the authentic entry sequence - along the driveway, under the house, between the pilotis, and around to the east side of the garage. I snapped pictures from all round, trying to find the classic facade from the four almost identical sides (Villa Rotunda?, - another square-plan, identical-on-all-sides country house). Entry was free for students, and we stashed our backpacks in the garage - surprisingly small for a three car garage (in fact, the scale of the building is deceptively large in photos). There's a cool detail in the two skylights on the east and west ends of the garage ceiling: the skylights are built within planters on the main floor above, so the view up through them is not just of the sky, but of lavender, rosemary, and perhaps a passer-by. There is a sense of connection to the rest of the house upon arrival.
We spent most of the afternoon at the house, wandering around, taking photos, and spending a lot of time drawing - we sat in original Corb furniture as we sketched! Many things said by professors or books were even more impressive in person (Sam calls the house the perfect house) - the natural transition between rooms, and inside and out; the use of color; the framing of views within the house, and to the landscape beyond (there's a fantastic built-in desk on the top balcony with a view to the Seine in the bottom of the distant valley - this really plays with sense of scale and distance. Also the profile of the horizontal roof line crops the top of the mature trees beyond, giving a painterly white-green-blue effect); the rough finish of tile work in the kitchen and bathroom; the ramp in the center of the house (whereas Frank Lloyd Wright places the hearth in the center of the house? - here Corb places an element celebrating the experience of passage), the ramp that takes you from top to bottom, from inside to outside, and keeps your connection to the rest of the house uninterrupted (a staircase cannot do this); the way the spaces become abstract in their color and shape, and you feel slightly disoriented, until someone walks across the doorway, and suddenly the space becomes earthly again. I particularly loved the skylight above the entry to the southwest bedroom - the effect it has on the the colorful walls, and the focus on the doorway as a destination at the end of the hallway. And also the size of the sliding glazed doors in the main living room! It took three of us to close one of the panes - there are two panes and each must be about 10' x 12' (120 s.f. of glass - thick glass!). The columns in the main first floor courtyard were also interesting - elliptical in plan, not circular like the columns throughout the rest of the house. I assume this is to strengthen the wall in the direction of maximum force: the major axis of column in plan is perpendicular to the wall, thus in line with the wind load upon the wall. Moreover, the eyebrow above the horizontal window on that same wall is the profile of a very gently sloped trapezoid - effectively a truss serving the same purpose as the elliptical columns.
We didn't meet many people (although Jay coincidentally got a call from his old architecture professor). Most walked around in silence. Occasionally some informed person would lead their friends around the house stating the obvious like a real estate agent: "and this is the main room...". There was a girl who floated around the house offering to inform any French-speaking visitor. When no one was around to be helped, she was reading one of two books on Corbusier - clearly incredibly enthusiastic about her job. She was thrilled to see that we were sketching, and was the one who asked if we'd help close the large sliding doors. We all tried, and failed, to share our enthusiasm.
We stayed until closing, and walked back to the train station via an ancient church (12th century) where Louis-the-something was christened in 12-something, and which Le Duc redesigned in the 19th century. There was an excess of ornamental details, and Jay was seduced. Unfortunately, while I was outside, and Jay inside sketching, the church was locked, and it seemed Jay was locked inside - for about an hour. Eventually the steward arrived, and we were reunited in time to miss our train by 30 seconds. But we were back in Paris before long, and finished the day with our first real dinner out of the apartment - in a restaurant along Canal St. Martin - delicious; Jay had carpaccio, and I had a white salt-water fish I'd never heard of, followed by tiramisu and creme brulee. A decent birthday.
vendredi 30 mai 2008
Above is a shot of the viaduct bounding the north side of Place de Argonne. Opposing the viaduct is a new batiment, not yet open, perhaps 15 floors high. Several businesses and a gallery are established under the arches of the viaduct, something that would have been impractical when the rattle of the old train used to pass over them.
Ceinture neighbors. The vitality of the environs is evident. While videoing this, three large balck men, whom you can hear shouting once I pass by the alley playing music, chased after me, stopped me and asked what my problem was. I was sure that was the end of my camera. But once they told them in my shitty french that I was an architecture student, they told me I shouldn't take photos and left me alone. Along that alley, it turned out, is a community of makeshift dwellings, many of which are artist studios. Villette truss bridge.
Above is the bridge spanning Canal de l'Ourcq, which runs through the center of Parc de la Villette and is flanked by a narrow cobbled road, wide bicycle paths and broad promenades. Aside from it's obvious visual appeal, this bridge is exceptional in its relationship to its surroundings. There is a footpath that runs up to and along the bridge, connecting either side of the Canal, and placing the pedestrian inside the infrastructure of the Petite Ceinture. The view is excellent looking down the Canal toward the center of Paris, and out toward Parc de la Villette. This bridge interacts physically and visually with a number of active and well trafficed public spaces. Below is a bike shop next to the bridge that has made a home in the viaduct that resumes on the south side of the bridge. Nestled at the base of the factory and stack looming over this district of the 19eme is an urban garden. It is a reclaimed patch of abandoned property, converted into a garden that is maintained by "les enfants et les familles du quartier". Plots like this are common in this area, and throughout the further reaches of eastern Paris. They are typically sponsored by the city hall (the current mayor is a gay socialist), and often display fantastic examples of graffiti.
Shanty viaduct (below). Makeshift garages, storerooms and shops line the southern side of the viaduct runing along Rue de l'Ourcq. A rough area, populated by 6+ story immobiliers, often built within the last 50 years.
First steps on the Ceinture itself! Gained entrance from the north side of R.A. Danion. Other people were there. Picture below is looking back north at the chimney stack.
Heading south over Ave. Jean Jaures the track is encroached upon by modern apartment towers. In the picture below the apartment complex sitting over the tunnel extended the width of the bridge in order to provide a building site. The old Belleville-Villette station and platform (now totally demolished) sat on the right side of the picture below (in place of the mature trees).
Manin-Crimee overpass. My favorite bridge/overpass in the Petite Ceinture. The southern end of the underpass running under Rue Manin, Rue de Crimee, and the above-mentioned apartment complex marks the north border of Parc Buttes-Chaumont. Substantial columns (5'-6' dia.) aided by the subsequent insertion of scoffold towers support this broad overpass. Vagrants have homes in the notches of the tunnel wall.
Taggers have filled the bottom 6'-7' of the tunnel wall with grafitti. These two taggers are standing in front of their most recently completed tag. They began tagging six months ago.
Beyond the large overpass, within the boundary of Buttes Chaumont the ground raises up, held back by buttressed walls, and absorbs the Petite Ceinture within a 1100m tunnel, the second longest of the Petite Ceinture. It is common to see people walk onto the line from this point.
The submergence of the line, and its position within a park, means that the atmosphere changes from a louder, bustling urban environment, to one that is more peaceful and naturalistic. Compare this video with the previous one.
Climbing out of the P.C. from one of the many holes in the fence, you can climb to the top of the hill, to this restaurant. When the foliage is not thick you can see the line of the Petite Ceinture disappear underneath of the Buttes Chaumont hill. The P.C. is the axis upon which this restaurant was built (part of Alfond's plan to bring attention to the existing infrastructure, which included the P.C.).