Photo of the Week


Humor on the hoardings spotted before the first round of the French elections: “John Goodman (Jean Gentilhomme) for President,” the candidate of the “Nice Peoples' Party. That would make a change. © Paris Update












Paris Update What’s On

Links to events happening this week in Paris.

Silent films from Switzerland?


> They’re rare, but they do exist and can be seen at the Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé, Paris, through May 2.

Retail heaven
> You can buy just about anything at the century-old Foire de Paris, a gigantic pop-up store. Porte de Versailles, Paris. April 27-May 8.

Voices from the North
> The Pølar Festival celebrates Northern European culture with films, concerts, talks and more. Various locations, Paris, through April 29.

Photo walk
> Eight Paris galleries hold special photography shows and events for Parcours Fotofever. Various locations, Paris, through May 1.

Photo shows galore
> Le Mois de la Photo has been moved from autumn to spring, with 96 exhibitions taking place all over the greater Paris area. See Web site for locations and dates.

Art videos
> The theme of this year’s Videobox Festival is “noise and movement.” Carreau du Temple, Paris, April 27-29.

French film with English subtitles
> Lost in Frenchlation shows Nicolas Boukhrief’s La Confession, preceded by a themed cocktail party (€4.50). Studio 28, Paris, April 28.

Virtual reality
> Drop in on Saturday or Sunday from 2pm to 8pm for a free virtual trip at the VR Express festival. Forum des Images, Paris, through June 30.

Dance in historic sites
> Monuments en Mouvement offers free dance performances in national monuments like the Pantheon in Paris, the Abbaye de Cluny and châteaux. Various locations, through Oct. 21.

African culture festival
> The 100% Afriques festival showcases dance, theater, music, fashion, design, art, food and more from all over the continent. La Villette, Paris, through May 28.


Hot Topics - Tales of la Ville


Boulevard Macdonald

Urban Mutation in Paris: 
Birth of a Shiny New Quarter

Paris Update Boulevard Macdonald man in sky

A lone banker on his cellphone in the glass bridge between buildings.

Anyone who remembers Boulevard Macdonald as it was a few years ago might want to pay a visit now – the derelict zone around the enormous 1970s Macdonald warehouse in Paris’s 19th arrondissement is being transformed into a shiny new quarter called Rosa Parks/Macdonald.

This is part of the 200-hectare Paris Nord Est urban-regeneration project, bigger than the whole of Paris’s first arrondissement. This traditionally industrial area, crisscrossed

Paris Update Boulevard Macdonald northeast paris

The area as it was, with, to the left, the former car pound on top of the Macdonald warehouse.

by major infrastructure like canals and railway lines and edged by the Boulevard Périphérique (the ring road around Paris), is being restructured. Some of the important ideas behind this enormous project can be seen coming to life on Boulevard Macdonald.

The Macdonald warehouse, with an imposing façade more than 600 meters long, has been rethought by superstar architect Rem Koolhaas’s firm OMA. The building acts

Paris Update Boulevard Macdonald warehouse

The Macdonald warehouse reconversion in progress. Below: visualisation of the completed building by night.

Paris Update Boulevard Macdonald visualisation

as an almost continuous base facing the boulevard, above which new structures are being added onto the roof, where in the past you might have gone to recover your car from the pound.

Different segments of the building, designed by a mix of French and international architects, have different uses, adding diversity to the street frontage. When this €240-million mixed development is finished in the near future, it will house over 1,000 new apartments, primary and high schools, a gymnasium, a nursery school, offices, startups, supermarkets and shops. The building’s website describes the warehouse as “une tour couchée,” – roughly translated, “a horizontal skyscraper.”

Across the street is the recently finished ZAC (zone d’aménagement concerté) Claude Bernard, a development zone of nearly 15 hectares sandwiched between the boulevard and the Périphérique. Again, “mix” is the keyword, meaning a combination of office buildings, housing and facilities, but also, as in the previous project, a social mix encouraged by high proportions of low-cost housing.

Activity along the boulevard is already being generated by the 14-screen UGC cinema, shops and the bar/restaurant Cock Art (reviewed recently on Paris Update). This compact, high-density development has a particularly striking feature that attracts the eye: three different office buildings occupied by BNP Parisbas have been “stitched” together with glass bridges. A lone banker silhouetted against the sky (pictured above) talking on his cellphone created an unexpected moment of urban poetry during a recent visit.

More rural in nature is the first narrow sliver of the Forêt Linéaire (Linear Forest) to be

Paris Update Boulevard Macdonald forest original

Above: the Forêt Linéaire as originally planned (image: Agence Ter). Below: the first phase as it looks today.

Paris Update Boulevard Macdonald forest planted

completed. The idea is to help integrate the city and its infrastructure with a continuous line of trees forming an ecological corridor along the Péripherique. The landscape architecture firm Arpentère has designed the first hectare of a planned 24. Two thousand trees have been planted, representing different stages of forest development. Their growth can be measured with the help of a sculpture of giant surveyors’ poles, while funky piles of old tree trunks from the Bois de Boulogne provide homes for insects and animals as they do in mature forests, and walls of gabions (rock-filled cages) enclose areas inaccessible to the public to protect the wildlife.

Desénclavement or “opening up,” is a key concept in this part of Paris, which has been cut off and inaccessible for so long. Crucial to the success of these projects is the T3 tram, inaugurated at the end of 2012, which runs in front of the Macdonald warehouse. A new tram/train interchange named after Rosa Parks, the African-American civil rights activist who fought against racial segregation in transport, will open toward the end of 2015 and is expected to serve 85,000 travelers a day. And a footbridge linking the ZAC Claude Bernard with new developments on the other side of the Périphérique is now being built, with another to the north crossing a branch of the canal.

So much transformation is happening in this part of the city that in a decade it may be impossible to remember that it was once a bit rough around the edges. Go and have a look at the fascinating process of urban mutation while you still can.

Helen Stokes

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