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)