Paris is surrounded by a terrifying ring road called the Périphérique When I say terrifying I mean to drive on. It is always crowded with cars weaving in and out between each other. Exits and entrances to the Périphérique are at the same points so cars drive on the the ring road in the same place as others drive off (!!!). Since they introduced speed cameras it is much better, but in my books it still falls in the category of 'avoid-if-you-possibly-can'.
Simplifying massively: within the ring road, Paris is a chi-chi enclave with by and large safe and vibrant neighbourhoods. Beyond the confines of the Périphérique the story is often different. There are some tough areas with large housing estates with high rates of unemployment and social deprivation. The mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë, has tried to address this issue of inequality by instigating a number of large sustainable urban regeneration projects around the ring road of Paris to try and 'soften' the sharp divide between 'in' Paris and 'out.'
Recently I read about a regeneration project not so far from where we live, designed to improve the rather desolate area around Porte Pouchet, an access point into Paris half a kilometre east of the better known Porte de Clichy. Included in the project was a plan to build 180 apartments, of which 140 would be social housing. The apartments were to be built on a 600 metre long and 12 metre wide strip of land running between Rue Pierre Rebière the Batignolles cemetery. The whole urban regeneration project was initiated in 2003, the apartment blocks were completed last year.
The road was deserted as I walked down it at midday. On the southern side of the road is the rear of the Lycée Saint Honoré de Balzac on the northern side are the new apartments.
Nine architects were involved in the design of the apartment blocks creating a diverse style of architecture. The first building I came to was this one, clad in rustic planks of douglas fur.
Next along this steel clad block with strong horizontal lines.
I was intrigued by this building and didn't quite understand what was going on until I got up close. The cladding incorporates small pockets designed to contain plants. As yet the growth is rather modest but if the plants actually take I think this could create a great looking building.
At the round floor level the pockets in the cladding are closed up creating a rather nice pattern.
I liked the large terraces on this block.
Here is another gesture towards planting. As yet the planting is far from mature but given a few years I can imagine these buildings will give the impression of always having been here.
At the western most end of Rue Pierre Rebière is this block with this striking (and perhaps a little gimmicky?) rainbow terraces. They are very photogenic however!
If you look carefully the planting on some of the balconies is even colour coordinated with the colour of the concrete slab.
Please remind me to come back and have a closer look in a year or two to see how the buildings and neighbouring developments have evolved.
More photos of Rue Rebière can be seen on my Flickr account here.
Details of the Urban regeneration project can be found here (in French)
The other night I had a late work meeting. I didn't fancy getting on a crowded metro after being in a windowless room for a few hours so decided to pick up a Vélib (Paris' public bicycle sharing scheme) and cycle at least part of the 7kms home. It was a lovely mild evening and late enough for the worst of the traffic to have gone home. The Seine marked the halfway point of my journey, I stopped to take a few photos.
The golden glow on the river was magical.
The glow was none too shabby as I passed the Louvre either.
As it turned out, this gave me enough of a buzz to get me all the way home.
On Sunday morning I dropped our son off at a birthday party in the 2nd arrondissement. I had two hours to kill and decided to head towards rue Montorgueil, a lovely road full of restaurants, cafés, specialised food shops, charcuteries, cheese shops, chocolate shops, amazing looking bakeries, florists and more. To get there I wandered down Rue Réamur which is a large boulevard to the north of Rue Montorgueil. It was so quiet, hardly a car or pedestrian in sight. When I turned right into rue Montorgueil, however, that all changed. Suddenly I was amidst a throng of people, the small cobbled street was heaving. Claude Monet painted Rue Montorgueil in 1878 Rue Montorgueil, Paris, Festival of June 30.It was heaving then too.
When I worked in rue Montorgueil 20 years ago they repaved the road with white marble cobbles. As the years passed these blocks were quick to crack and break and I noticed that they have now been replaced with granite cobbles. The white marble blocks remain on the pavements.
I was alone with no children tugging at my arm begging me to stop being weird, so I was able to walk slowly down the road looking up at the shop fronts at my own pace. Some are beautifully intricate but in need of restoration.
In contrast, some of the facades have been recently restored and look very crisp and clean.
There are small interesting details to be seen the whole way along the road. Notably at 'La Fermette' where there's a cow observing the goings on from the first floor.
I love this sign.
Wrought iron with gilded details.
And then one of my favourites, a giant escargot at the infamous L'Escargot Montorgueil, a restaurant that has been serving snails for 200 years!