BBC BLOGS - The Reporters: Razia Iqbal
« Previous | Main | Next »

Paris receives a facelift

Razia Iqbal | 17:27 UK time, Wednesday, 29 April 2009

sarkozy.jpgThe French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, has grand designs for his capital city.

Today, he unveils what is billed as one of the biggest redevelopments of the French capital since Baron Haussmann carved out those wonderful boulevards in the nineteenth century.

Two years ago, in what was seen as a gesture to a cultural elite who looked down on him for being a philistine who only watched Hollywood blockbusters, he invited some of the greatest international architects to come up with ideas which would allow him to leave a credible cultural legacy.

President Sarkozy understands how architecture can shape a leader's image. George Pompidou made an impact, as did Francois Mitterrand's "grands projets", which left us with the Louvre Pyramid, and the Arche de La Defense.

Ten teams of architects have presented blueprints for Sarkozy's project - among them Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners, MVRDV, and Jean Nouvel. Futuristic glass towers, an artificial island in the river Seine and monorails high above the Paris traffic are among the ideas that could transform the city in decades to come.

One of the most ambitious, a plan to expand the French capital all the way to the English channel is pictured below:


The mission - which of course was launched in more optimistic financial times than now - was to envision a post-Kyoto metropolis, incorporating the best sustainable design techniques, energy efficient structures, and a mix of housing for rich and poor.

The Paris we are all familiar with as tourists works like a charm, with one of the best and cheapest inner city transport systems in Europe. Where it goes badly awry and poses a big challenge for architects and politicians alike, is in the outlying districts, the banlieues.

Sarkozy does not have a great reputation among the inhabitants there, and he is expected to define which of the 10 plans will be followed up once an exhibition of the initial designs goes on display in the Cite de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine.

For all the impact of so-called iconic buildings, where architects can truly contribute is in finding solutions to urban planning. In fact, it could be argued that they are morally or ethically obliged to do so.

This is much more likely to be a lasting and impressive monument for Sarkozy than anything flashy.

A coloured map of Paris by British architect Richard Rogers

A coloured map of Paris by British architect Richard Rogers


  • Comment number 1.

    I see the French are still equating France = Paris... What about the rest of the country?

  • Comment number 2.

    You never know perhaps the French Embassy did send on a copy or a digest of a piece that I wrote last summer

    It starts-


    Perhaps it has merely passed me by this time, but it seems that the fortieth anniversary of the events of May 1968 has slipped by almost unnoticed. I saw no TV parade of people of “a certain age”, now wiser and sadder, looking back at their youthful dreams and the realities that finally impacted on them. So, as President Sarkozy recently played the good host to the dignitaries of the European Community, I reflected on the way that Paris has lost its position in the World, even as the City took over the EU Presidency.

    For in 1968 young people had a real world vision that engaged the hopes of older generations; but we live in times when the immediacy of the threats around us is much less obvious and its exact nature more like some distant plague. And , moreover, there is the steady drip-drip of Death as the generations that have known two World Wars pass on, hopefully in peace to rest.

    So what we have seen in 2008 is a serious attempt to “put France’s own house in order” and lay some of the ghosts that haunted the sub-conscious of the demonstrators of ’68. After all President De Gaulle was the uncomfortable reminder of a painful history. He was the personification of French non-capitulation and non-collaboration; a relatively obscure military man who became the leader of the Free French as much in default of other candidates as by virtue of his own strengths. Britain needed a credible and independent French voice to rally the resistance in a broken country-a land of women in black. And nothing was much blacker than the post-liberation reality reflected upon by Louis-Ferdinand Celine in his novel “Nord” in which the author chronicles his flight from the vengeful slaughter of late 1944 into the crumbling fortress of the Third Reich.

    Nevertheless in 1940 when Hitler was strutting in Paris with such evident delight, this pleasure was more than just revenge, or the satisfaction of a First World War veteran in achieving the goal of the Schlieffen Plan. Hitler may not have been much of an artist, but he was almost certainly enough of one to realize just what Paris still meant in the workings of the world. He had, after all, lived painful years in Vienna, the great cultural metropolis of the East, just as Paris was of the West. His Vienna was in terminal decline along with its ramshackle empire. His Berlin at the heart of a German Empire was trying to grow into its role; but its artistic world of the twenties was not rooted in classic values- certainly not the particular mixture of mythical Aryan and Roman that appealed to the Nazis.

    Paris, however, was still “the real thing”. The recent death of Cyd Charisse has reminded us that “An American in Paris” was arguably the most serious attempt by Holywood to create a modern ballet for the cinema; and the film paid tribute to the fact that “after the flood” of 1914-18 it was the Bohemian Quarter of Paris that sucked-in creative geniuses from far and wide, feeding off the special energy that was engendered as irresistible forces came up against immovable objects and created things that were “out of this world”."

    The link above will lead anyone interested in reading the whole thing.

    Incidentally Ms Iqbal, I always wonder whether you are the daughter of my old colleague who taught Maths at Dick Sheppard School.


  • Comment number 3.

    Akerbeltz wrote:
    « I see the French are still equating France = Paris... What about the rest of the country? »

    I see you are equating the French = Parisians. It may not be obvious to you, but the 90% of the French who do not live in Paris mostly recent the France = Paris equation, that we see among politicians and foreigners.

  • Comment number 4.

    Paris and its suburbs is significantly populated by more 20% of the french people. Road named "periferic" around Paris is sadly the most loaded in traffic in Europe. So, Paris is not equal to France, but is a real "Center" problem for France in any case.

  • Comment number 5.

    Actually chesskit, I believe Paris and its suburbs actually accounts for around a third of the French population.

    Other than that there are some decent sized populations in Lyon, Marseille and Bordeaux, but they pale into the background compared to Paris.

    A great deal of France is completely empty, which is why so many are desperate to live in the capital, despite the horrendous flat prices and problemswith the cost of living.

  • Comment number 6.

    words... the population of Paris and the Ile De France is about 8/9 million. The population of France is 60 million.

    I'd say that London is far more dominant in the UK than Paris is in France, it's just that the highest levels of government are stuffed with enarques who are very Paris-centric. Rest of the country doesn't think like that

  • Comment number 7.

    With all due respect to the many good architects that I know, suggesting that "where architects can truly contribute is in finding solutions to urban planning" is a little like suggesting that 'where the military can truly contribute is in finding peaceful solutions to inter-group conflicts'. It's not exactly wrong, but it's missing out on a whole raft of vital ancillary professions without whom things will tend to go horrifically wrong.

    In particular, I'd suggest that architects are notoriously weak at understanding the impact of their efforts on communities and networks of human interaction that are radically more complex than can be understood in an architectural brief. The building is just a *part* of the solution, it is not the solution. If you left everything to the planners you'd get rubbish buildings, but there's an equal risk that if you leave it all to the architects you'll get rubbish communities.

  • Comment number 8.

    For God's sake, stop making up figures! Ile de France has 12 million out of 64 million, Southeast England has about 20 million out of 60.
    To me articles like Razia's just fed on old-fashioned stereotyping. All this type of things was not what PM Thatcher tried to do in Canary Wharf? I saw lots of new architecture and cultural programs in places like Lyon, Lille, Touloues or Bordeaux, far more than in Leeds, Birmingham or Newcastle.

  • Comment number 9.


    How dare you!

    Take Newcastle-upon-Tyne out of the company of those two urban land -fill sites at once.

    However as a frequent visitor to many French cities, I must whole -heartedly agree that the improvements in France actually seem to be improvements, whereas ours aren't.

    London is a rambling monstrous Wen only fit for demolition with the odd jewel saved but the rest levelled in the hope of a latter day Haussman.

  • Comment number 10.

    If only our (UK) Government and political leaders had the French vision and ability to execute such schemes. Instead our leaders fear making any big decisions, allow reviews that go on for years and years.

  • Comment number 11.

    I've only lived in France for a short nine years but I do know the majority of the people out here in one of the regions that is, as "wordsaretheanswer" puts it, "completely empty" (although I'm not sure what that really means), the majority are anti-Sarkozy, anti-Paris and anti-just-about-anything if they really put their minds to it.

    We 'country folk' (actually 'vineyard folk') are all the more happier if he turns his attentions to Paris and leaves the country to its own designs.

    If the government focuses on Paris all the better - it certainly needs a face-lift. I visit the city three or more times each year on business and would like to see some sort of change that helps those who must live there.

    Nick's ideas could possibly be his version of leaving a legacy - as long as he doesn't do another unsightly glass pyramid (calm down - it's only one person's opinion) then more power to him. The population of this earth continues to grow by quantum leaps - any new housing will be a positive endeavour. And breaking beyond the psychological boundaries of the Périphérique - the world's most beautifully designed traffic jam - is certainly the way forward.

    Good luck to him/them - may they go down in history as people who have. . .er. . . you know. . .gone down in history.

  • Comment number 12.

    I support Nicolas Sarkozy~~

  • Comment number 13.

    As a regular visitor to Paris I suggest some caution be exercised in the enthusiasm for change in Paris. Baron Haussmann changed Paris for the better, not just for change's sake. I trust that today's Parisians can recognise the difference.
    Whilst much which is new in Paris has contributed positively, to both its facility and its character, there are striking examples of negativity as well.
    Be careful Paris, you are the most beautiful city in the world. Don't let change for change's sake degrade you.

  • Comment number 14.

    I think it's a very good idea !!

  • Comment number 15.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 16.

    Haussmann destroyed neighborhoods for decades in the name of urban redevelopment. How many houses will be destroyed, people forcibly removed from their homes under Sarko's grand plans? Where are these "renovations" going to take place? I doubt he's proposing to cut into Opera and the Boulevards...

  • Comment number 17.

    I was under the impression that most of the banlieu were populated by non-French and people who also didn't feel that they were Parisians...

  • Comment number 18.

    Do the French who do not happen to live in Paris ever feel left out?

  • Comment number 19.

    Firstly, France isn't Paris. Second, When the city was redesigned at the time, no one envisaged the expansion in population and transport.
    Redesigning Paris? Why not, BUT one still has to deal with the banlieus, and the Parisian mentality (true, not ALL Parisiens have this 'moi' mentality, but the city is plagued by rude and impolite people in all walks of life). Some of the ideas are nice, especially that 'central' park, but this would very soon degenerate to junkies, dealers, hobos, and other groups of the night. Or a place for those of the Banlieus to congregate and vent their anger.....or has Psarko (sic) plans to flood the place with Police?

  • Comment number 20.

    It is my view that the problems being discussed here are simply inherent in any major city the size of Paris. We're at the point now where the city has to do something radically different as the population are falling over themselves.

    A drive around the outskirts of Paris is now a frightening prospect. I drove up from the Loire Valley last week and encountered the largest tailback of traffic I have ever seen. I kid you not, at least 50 miles all the way down to the payage at Loire. What's happening here is Parisians, rightly residing in one of the world's greatest cities, nipping out at the holiday weekend to see the rest of France, heading for favourites like La Rochelle.

    I think Sarkozy's plan would be a good move, although perhaps more legacy driven, as the Banlieus need a focused restructure that will deal with future expansion.

    If anything Banlieus and outer districts in most cities are a pretty ugly introduction. I have noticed however that major (and a few minor) French cities do tend to be much harsher than most, with sprawling industrial estates. Hard to explain but I think they last longer and aren't strategically hidden. Sure, there's a pretty major task involved in equalling out the beauty of a city or creating a better environment in current slums, but I do remember Singapore efficiently handling the task. Should we not perhaps take a leaf from their book?

    I only hope that Sarko moves on this and moves quickly. Like a lot of leaders this seems to be ego-driven with a hint of national pride. But if that's what it takes...

  • Comment number 21.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 22.

    Inner Paris is already undoubtedly one of the most architecturally stunning cities in the world. However I agree, parts of outer-Paris could definitely do with some attention.

    As with most Western cities, traffic is a major problem. As is mentioned above, some reports put the Paris ring-road as the most congested in Europe. This is mainly due to the inadequate reach of most Parisian public transport into the banlieues (whilst public transport in inner-Paris is pretty good these days, it is still seriously lacking in many outer districts).

    Addressing the congestion issue has to be the biggest priority facing planners & architects. Whilst some of the banlieues continue to be cut off from the city centre due to lack of adequate public transport, the ghettoisation effect will only continue to lead to ever more alienation and discontent amongst the inhabitants.

    The problem in Paris has always been that such essential "boring" infastructure improvements (like extending metro lines to outer-district branches) are ignored in favour of "exciting" architecural white elephants that do little to improve the city.

    Unfortunately, the same problem is showing signs of starting to occur in London, with Boris Johnson's cancellation of public transport upgrades in favour of "legacy" buildings which will actually benefit the city far less.

  • Comment number 23.

    Spot on 'timOfBrum' it needs REAL change, more infrastructure with only a smattering of big pointy buildings! And break up those ghettos, Singapore style!

  • Comment number 24.

    As someone who grew up outside Europe, the most appealing thing about the continent is that each country (and the cities in them) have always been able to maintain their identity. Sadly, that can't be said about all countries.
    Paris is so much more than just the buildings, the music and of course the French - and I really hope Sarkozy or otherwise, so called plans to "redevelop" the city doesn't in any way or form dilute even a bit of that identity. We've all seen what "redevelopment" can do to some countries - just monstrous glass and steel structures and nothing else to write about. Infrastructure while necessary, does not have to be lift-and-drop thing just because it looks nice elsewhere. I can say that about cities in India - Bangalore for instance (though its apples and oranges) - is fast losing its identity in its quest for growth. The less said about the traffic the better.
    Paris certainly needs some improvement but I'm not convinced if doing it all at once is the best way forward.

  • Comment number 25.

    To most foreigners though, the idea of Paris is the centre. Few tourists see the outskirts and it's this area that is being addressed here. I doubt there would be anything radical happening in 'tourist' Paris.
    The outlying districts need structure, organisation and architectural flair to match the inner city. Look at La Defense from any of the major tourist attractions and you can see the birth of a new city, brimming with optimism but always at arms length from it's historical core. Paris is exciting that way, because it does grow and it has, or at least had, vision.

  • Comment number 26.

    #7 jreades... You say...

    'architects are notoriously weak at understanding the impact of their efforts on communities and networks of human interaction that are radically more complex than can be understood in an architectural brief. The building is just a *part* of the solution, it is not the solution. If you left everything to the planners you'd get rubbish buildings, but there's an equal risk that if you leave it all to the architects you'll get rubbish communities.'

    Not so sure about this. First architects don't just design buildings. Some are actually brilliant at creating communities (for one example see the work of Eric Lyons et al). Others are weak at that so it doesn't make sense to make those comments about architecture per se, you have to look at that on a practice by practice basis. Equally the suggestion that planners are inherently good at creating communities is dubious. Again some no doubt are but there are countless examples both large and small of planners damaging or even destroying communities.

    The truth is the best communities are defined and sustained best by the people within them. As has been pointed out many times, some of the best loved community environments (English villages) were created before planning existed and with little or no formal input from architects. On the whole planners and architects could all do more to engage people when making significant planning decisions. And the people from communities in question need to engage with the architects and planners equally. This quality dialogue happens all too rarely.

    Lumping blame for that on architects alone is no answer. And no, I'm not an architect.

    As for Paris it's already a beautiful city. The first thing I'd do to improve it is hand out some pooper scoopers and fine dog owners that didn't use them!

  • Comment number 27.

    Inner paris is architecturally great but outer part is not all that good. Traffic except RER is a problem for banlieu. Sunday evening traffic jam from Southern end to paris is something, because of all the Parisians who come back after the weekend to their apartments by car.
    Still Ile de la Cite and Ile saint louis are the most beautiful places in the world!

  • Comment number 28.

    What about a decent orbital motorway around Paris? - then those that don't want anything to do with Paris can avoid it.

    Le Peripherique is more or less like a nightmare roller coaster ride - and the N104 while it is well intentioned would be improved by being able to stay on just one road instead of chopping and changing the whole time!

    Never thought I'd say it but 'Vive le M25' - at least out of rush hour anyway!

  • Comment number 29.

    #1 Akerbeltz
    It's not just the Basques who feel discriminated against by the Paris = France thing ask the Burgundians or the Bretons. Same thing in the UK NE and NW England don't like London much. C'est la vie

  • Comment number 30.

    I think that what every one seems to forget is that Haussman's boulevards were not intended as some sort of beautification plan nor even for any practical reason of transport circulation other than to prevent the possible blockades set up in the various uprisings and revolutions.
    They were in fact designed to facilitate government control of populations that used the earlier narrow streets of Paris against police and/or military attack during riots.
    My French cousins, on the other hand, coming to London for the first time were delighted that while the city was as cosmoppolitan as it is, managed none the less to maintain the feeling of the small communities of the various boroughs as well as the very large areas of greenery in the city.

  • Comment number 31.

    I visit south France regularly. And I've noticed that there so behind economically (Driving old cars, Poor roads etc.) and they dont seem to mind at all, they prefer the "Non-Busy" and Horticultural lifestlye.
    And where as wether people feel left out living in paris?
    Thats not necessarily the case. i live in england, and i dont feel im missing out becausei dont live in London.
    Excuse spelling :)

  • Comment number 32.

    Hitler had similar grand ideas for Berlin.

  • Comment number 33.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

  • Comment number 34.

    What a fantastic proposal! I've no doubt that the jobs created and revenue from tourism will be a boost to the French economy during tougher times. When will Britain follow suit?

  • Comment number 35.

    'Philistine' - word of common usage that was clearly not used in a context attacking the Palestinian people. Get over yourself and keep the discussion on topic. I think that the plans are excellent (see comment above).

  • Comment number 36.

    Definitions of philistine:

    * a person who is uninterested in intellectual pursuits
    * of or relating to ancient Philistia or its culture or its people
    * a member of an Aegean people who settled ancient Philistia around the 12th century BC
    * anti-intellectual: smug and ignorant and indifferent or hostile to artistic and cultural values.

    Sorry Maz, Philisita and Palestine aren't DIRECTLY linked. About as close as Hibernia (Roman Scotland) and Hibernian Football Club. It's not often I stand up for the Beeb but in this case using the word Philistine isn't a racial slur directed at Palestine.

  • Comment number 37.

    Sorry, Ireland not Scotland. That was Caledonia!

  • Comment number 38.

    Can someone please explain the thing about extending Paris to the the English channel!!!!???

  • Comment number 39.

    Yeah, think that meeting was held in Amsterdam!

  • Comment number 40.

    lol where they deciding it stoned????

  • Comment number 41.


  • Comment number 42.

    I have read many comments and I've seen many predjuge. First Paris and it suburb concentrate 1/5 of the french population so the investment is proportional to the density of inhabitant. Secondly Parisians don't beleive that they are the center of France but there isn't many big city in France, there is an important number of medium-sized city, so if we consider the significant population, the economy and the politics, Paris is an huge center of activity. Thirdly most of Frenchmen are proud of their original region, they don't care about the city where they live. A parisian prefers tell that he is from Normandie, Auvergne, Alpes that from Paris. Frenchmen are really attach to all the French territory.
    My apologyze for the English, I'm French.
    PS: To people who judge to easily and to fast, try to get information and so you may know what you re taking about.

  • Comment number 43.

    Having lived in Brussels for several years; I hope that all city planners involved in the Paris regeneration scheme use this city as an example of how NOT to plan a city.

    A Belgian friend of mine (born and bred in Brussels) went to Paris to study architecture and city planning. His lecturer informed him that he had a head start on everyone else in the course...

  • Comment number 44.

    I've found you have to travel through France to get a broad idea of Paris's perception.

    Nomenbernames is correct in saying that Parisians love to talk of their roots. Yet outside of Paris they are very definately Parisians!

    A lot of Southern French can dismiss Paris but this is common over large distances. It happens between Edinburgh and London for example.

    A lot of modern culture displays the Parisian as very flippant, a trait only bolstered by many Parisian waiting staff. And certainly i've found the people outside of Paris to be warmer and far more down to earth. But let's not hang (or guillotine) the Parisian quite yet. Perhaps they have the tough exterior of any dweller in a metropolis. As a former city dweller, my attitude to life changed when I moved to the country.

    Parisians are simply part of an enormous patchwork quilt of a country, that offers diversity, culture and architecture like nowhere else on the planet. I love to watch it evolve and one things for sure, it's NEVER boring. I do hope that Parisians remain proud. It just wouldn't be the same without them.

    Oh, and yes, a PROPER ring-road would be a god-send!

  • Comment number 45.

    Sarko's got one heck of an uphill struggle then. I was in Paris in February and the first thing we encountered upon leaving the Gard du Nord were beggars, they descended upon us like flies. We couldn't escape them as they were everywhere, and shoppers were practically stepping over them to get into the Galleries Lafayette. Another sight that greeted us were copious amounts of dogs muck - lovely.

    Whilst regenerating the outskirts is a good idea, isn't it time that the centre, the parts that tourists actually visit, were cleaned up? I can honestly say that i won't be going back until it is.

  • Comment number 46.

    The one thing I remember about my last visits in Paris is how much stronger the contrast has become between everything: some of the "nicer" areas (8/16th, ave Victor Hugo for example) have kept their original character, while others (Champs Elysees for example) have become gaudy like New York's Times Square (except Times Square has its native style), the advertising heavy stores on the Champs Elysees all but destroyed what made its charm. All this in comparison with the more gentle Paris of the seventies. Just to mention the obvious. This may reflect also a class phenomenon - I am pretty certain that sociologists would confirm that wealth inequality has grown a lot over the past 20 years. And unfortunately most likely the nouveaux riches probably do not have very "classic" tastes (or to be more blunt, have no taste).

    Well, going forward, I certainly can relate to criticisms mentioned above about architects not being people sensitive. However I should mention very good ones do happen. By chance, actually: I highly recommend viewing the Charlie Rose interview of the architects for the renovation of Lincoln Center in NYC. Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the architects, had been initially charged with renovating the public areas, and slowly got tasked to renovate the whole complex. And their irst stage (Alice Tully Hall and some other areas) has been a resounding(pun intended) success. I should mention that there had been years and years of talks and planning previously about the renovation of Lincoln Center. Good thing nothing happened till now.

    Here's the link on YouTube for the Charlie Rose interview that was aired recently:

    As an aside, what I like about New York City, and I hope Paris can evolve towards, is the vibrant aspect where all are included. For example right near the Lincoln Center, the underground metro is being given a facelift, resulting in a rather horrific view till it is being completed.

    But that does prevent some great music happening there:

    At some other stops you can sometimes hear a world class violonist busking his way (he happens to like playing there, and apparently makes a more than decent living doing so). I always get a charge when I see some of the more sophisticated passers by recognize true talent when they hear it - regardless of the environment.

    To mention a great thing I saw in Paris that I wish NYC would emulate, I love these plexiglas windows encasing traffic and its noise!

  • Comment number 47.

    I am a Canadian who is currently on vacation in Europe and visited Paris just a week ago. Perhaps its the grass is greener effect but I thought Paris to be the most beautiful city in the world. It bothers me that they want to 'upgrade' the face of the city when I was under the impression that it is a city to aspire to.

  • Comment number 48.

    Please - don't attack the messenger - Razia - look at the message - and this article is about Paris specifically - not France .

    I am a Brit who spends large amounts of time in the IdF so I know the IdF - la banlieue - the suburbs - and Paris - the arrondissements - well . Paris is a beautiful and exciting city . I prefer it to dirty old London . It has a very good metro and it is very easy to get around . There is a lot to see , do and experience . There is a lot of culture and a lot of history . Certainly there are parts of Paris that could be tidied up such as rue Rivoli . However the big problem is the modern architecture - such as the Louvre pyramid and the Les Halles area , not to mention the Pompidou Centre . So I am very reticent about so called improvements . Where I am - out in the West - they have succeeded better with the architecture though , certainly , it isn't perfect . Further out at St. Germain-en-Laye they have a reasonably good fairly modern center . Any improvements have to be done with great care and must blend into the existing architecture .

  • Comment number 49.

    At least this is one area where we can show the French what is possible:--The London Eye, the Millenium bridge, the Gherkin, Tate Modern, the O2 arena and the forthcoming olympic stadium.

  • Comment number 50.

    # 2 Casseroleon

    I really enjoyed your post. Are you a historian?

    p.s. An American in Paris stared Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron not Cyd Charisse.

  • Comment number 51.

    Many contributors to this blog criticise architects for grand buildings which are out of touch with ordinary people, but the whole point of this 'master plan' project for Paris is that it is designed to tackle socio-economic problems and alienation in the banlieu. The Rogers Stirk Harbour plan was not 'designed by Richard Rogers' (as if it was drawn on the back of an envelope), but developed on the basis of months of research by senior members of the firm in conjunction with specialists at the LSE. It covers transport, housing, employment, energy, environment etc, not just 'buildings'. Architects (especially those with the Richard Rogers ethos) are in fact centrally involved with the social impact of the built environment. Those who have actually seen the various plans on display in Paris seem to think that the RSH contribution is one of the best. If only we could value the input of architects in the UK as much as it is respected elsewhere...
    PS I am not an architect!

  • Comment number 52.

    Nicolas Sarkozy will want to follow in the footsteps of his predecessors leaving his mark on that charming city of Paris.
    It would seem that the city is hardly lacking any additional landmark, such is the wealth and diversity of its buildings, monuments, squares, boulevards or anything that may spring to mind.
    And it all blends in beautifully in scale, location and detail.
    Whichever project is eventually picked should hopefully match up to Paris' already multiple stylishly charming attractions.

  • Comment number 53.

    And what else is new, read France = Paris as per United Kingdom = London

  • Comment number 54.

    Paris will change, it always has. I'm sure there was opposition to Haussman's Boulevards. As long as it is done with integrity it'll be something to look forward to.

  • Comment number 55.

    Interesting that a Paris that stretches all the way to the Channel also stretches half way to London. Perhaps Boris might like to expand London to Brighton, and then we could start thinking about Paridon.

  • Comment number 56.


    Is that because Londis is already taken?

  • Comment number 57.

    I doubt Paris wants to go up, like New York. If it stretches out, like London, it will have to deal with the HLM (Council blocks) that murder the CITYSCAPES AND TOWNSCAPES ALL ACCROSS fRANCE. I would suggest we revert to a Londonian aspect: erasing these terrible buildings, witnesses of a greedy past when we wanted the maghrebin manual labourers housed quickly to slave up in French factories, and replacing them with houses. Why? Firstly, it would make Paris a better looking place. Secondly, and more importantly, it would give value to housing. When Thatcher came up with the Right to Buy (for Council houses renters to be allowed to buy the house off the Council), she's done something great in my opinion for 'power to the people'. You may want to buy a house with a little back garden off the Council, but you wouldn't buy an ugly flat in an undermaintained HLM. So this should be the first step.
    Then,heavily fine anyone caught peeing in the streets, so increase by 500 per cent peeing facilities.
    By extending the cities with houses, you will have more parks, more space which in turn will generate entrepreunarial business.

  • Comment number 58.

    The English used by this reporter is slanting towards American as so many younger reporters are now doing which is regrettable. I suspect if we could listen to the reporter the usual incorrect pronunciations would be heard involving,'privacy, lamentable, controversy, envision, etc. It is surprising so many BBC reporters, news readers are unable to pronounce words correctly these days - too much time spent listening to American news reports, or watching too many American TV programmes and films.

  • Comment number 59.

    Sorry #58 but... what?

    If I were you I would enter Ms Iqbals profile at the top of the page and hear just how American she sounds. Let's give the girl some credit, eh? Unless you require all BBC employees to report in a pre-war tone that is. Ah, if only we'd all gone to Cambridge.

    Thank you Mr or Mrs Chumondley-Warner.

    And now back to the subject...

  • Comment number 60.

    Yes it's nice, I'm going to vote for this :)

  • Comment number 61.

    Most posters seem to concentrate on central Paris. Sarkozy's proposal encompasses a much wider area - the Isle de France. Apart from the idea of launching an architectural competition, he has given immediate support to the idea of a grand rail/underground scheme around and into central Paris. Forget more roads ((outer périphiques or whatever) he's thinking ahead - by decades. But he's also thinking work and job opportunities before then.

    As far as central Paris is concerned, we had a poll recently on what building(s) put up since WW2 that we would like to see flattened. I think it's currently the theme of an exhibition. My two "worst" came top (the Montparnasse tower) and second and one I would die to keep - la pyramide at the Louvre - gained very few votes (sorry SultanofCognac). Anyway, there's a warning there for these Architect competitors!

    NB I live in the South-West of France (not far from Sultan) but often find myself in greater Paris: and it's a painful experience, in all sorts of ways. If Sarko gets this right then I'll be a lot happier.

  • Comment number 62.

    Some are asking 'what about the rest of France?'... well, for four years now I've been in Alsace. The TGV East arrived (OK, I accept, heading TO Paris... but also FROM it, I guess) universities are being made independant on reduced budgets (echoes of the British Unis in the late 80s), Mulhouse, my local city, had massive state funding for a Tram system that actually works in terms of access to the city (even if it brings traffic to a standstill and kills some business IN the city), but mostly our villages are pretty happy to be left well alone, to be honest. We actually have village communities that work: our Commune of 1000 people bought a 'Bobcat' multi-function vehicle, a neighbouring commune bought a rubbish truck etc and the five local communes actually SHARE things and it works and feels more like a big family than a small council. For example on Saturday we (Ie about 50 or 60 villagers) will be planting out 20,000 plants in planters and displays on street corners etc instead of getting in landscapers... and that is topped off by a BBQ and a glass or three (..after all it is France...) of wine.

    For the mostpart, the further the state can stay away from our commune the better.... French bureaucracy at anything above commune level is a nightmare....

  • Comment number 63.

    As an annual visitor to France, usually for 2 to 3 months, I spend some of that time each year in Paris. I am an Architect, and whilst much of the profession's contribution to central Paris has been beneficial some has not. It is not modernity which will degrade Paris, rather it is whether on not the new planning and new structures are relevant. In the past Paris has had the courage to embrace Grand Plans, from which it has greatly benefitted. What is needed now is the adoption of a new Grand Plan for the City, before embarking on the design of new buildings.

  • Comment number 64.

    I'm sure that Sarkozy's ambitions relating to urban planning and renewable energy sources are very real but the bottom line is, as has ever been the case in the history of French culture, the president wants his 'Grand travaux' and he wants them bigger and better and more far-reaching than ever before. Better even than the monuments left by that other leader of large ambition and small stature, N. Bonaparte. Chirac fantasized about this very project (Grand Paris) but never got things off the ground and so had Mitterrand before him. This is the little president's big moment.

  • Comment number 65.


    Am I an historian? Good question.

    I have been working on it for a long time- more than fifty years- but I tend to make life difficult for myself [ I conclude] by deliberately, it seems trying to do things "the wrong way".

    But if you are interested, I did put up a link to the rest of that article that I have placed on My Space in the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy.

    But be warned- as I write in my self-introduction there, someone last year said that reading my pieces felt like being run over by a Jugernaut.

    Anyway Thanks for your positive feed back...

    Looking at some of the other posts on this thread, I feel that they reflect the kind of decline of the sort of leadership that our Sixties generation looked to Paris for.. It may have been too avant garde, too cerebral; too much of the mind, like Camus belief that what the modern world needed was a rediscovery of Hellenism. I remember reading a Camus novel in 1962 anc concluding that the only rational thing to do was to kill myself- But fortunately I was not and am not purely rational person.

    But in France to "have reason" on your side is by defintion to be right and I think that the French people need such forward thinking ideas in order to counter the great weight of long tradition and deep-roots that weigh on the French heart and soul. Without them France falls into stagnation and fragmentation.

    So I find the situation of President Sarkozy interesting, and this project is typical of France. French people voted for Sarkozy because thinking about the state of France, they knew cerebrally that his kind of change was needed. But having chosen a head to drag them forward they will now actively resist that forward momentum as much as possible- stretching out like proverbial green lizards- and who knows the tail may yet drop off..


  • Comment number 66.

    No.53 nice...;)

  • Comment number 67.

    Anybody who wishes to see fragments of Paris architecture from late Nineteenth to early Twentieth Century by a genius of photography check out these four volumes of visual staggeringness by Eugene Atget :

    Szarkowski, John and Maria Morris Hambourg. The Work of Atget

  • Comment number 68.

    Yes, well spotted Akerbeltz, what about the rest of France, surely they have a say in all of this aswell.

  • Comment number 69.

    Haussman´s boulevards had the mission...the be able to gather faster the military forces against the rebellious Parisian.The "big ego traces" of Pompidou and Mitterand starts to be crumbling expensive ruinous to keep going architecture.If I remember well..Paris has a great renovation is not bind to the great agitated who speaks a lot,without much consequences.Renovation subventions for the "beaux quartiers" is just another tax reduction for the wealthy and the "new projects" a sell out to the neoliberal market neglecting the rules once in stored to protect the beauty of Paris by limiting the building size.The day,Paris is affordable again for a creative bohème and not only for bobo bureaucrats...we might notice.

  • Comment number 70.

    What a delight...that the "rest of France" is more inclined to preserve truly the charm of old structures and favouring craftsmanships of lot´s of little enterprises where century's of skills gets reached over from generation to generation...and time is about long lasting life quality instead of thoughtless short therm "modernism" ageing fast badly.

  • Comment number 71.

    Having regulary travlled to Paris for conferences relating to my work with, I have come to very much come to love the charms of this capital city and I hope that the modernisation is not at the expense of the beautiful designed buildings which date back centuries. I think more of a focus needs to be made towards the outer lying areas of Paris and not not the city centre which we are all familar with.

  • Comment number 72.

    Having regulary travlled to Paris for conferences relating to my work with I have come to very much come to love the charms of this capital city and I hope that the modernisation is not at the expense of the beautiful designed buildings which date back centuries. I think more of a focus needs to be made towards the outer lying areas of Paris and not not the city centre which we are all familar with.


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.