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Cité de l’Architecture, Paris, MVRDV, Forêt Charles de Gaulle

This is how MVRDV sees the future of Paris


Nicolas Sarkozy is walking in the footsteps of Baron Haussmann: Ten teams of architects and planners were invited by the French president in June 2008 to develop a vision for the future for Paris in the year 2030. One of the plans, which can be seen up to November in the "Cité de l’Architecture"exhibition in Paris, comes from Rotterdam architect's office MVRDV.
Long-term planning horizons and strategies for cities have become rare in a time when efficiency and profits are the dominant governing motives. Frequently, city marketing takes the place of urban development. But planning ahead is absolutely essential: around three quarters of global energy consumption is accounted for by cities and cities will be the focal point of climate change and its consequences. It was probably considerations such as these that drove Nicolas Sarkozy to invite ten planning teams to create plans for the new Paris of the future.
The title "Paris Plus Petit" ("smaller Paris") of the concept of MVRDV hits the nail on the head in the way it addresses the challenges involved in planning for the future. The quality of living in cities needs to be improved and, at the same time, our large urban conurbations have to reduce their carbon footprint to a fraction of what it is at the moment. In "Paris Plus Petit", MVRDV makes concrete proposals for 17 inpidual building and infrastructure projects. In the "Les Halles" area, a new subterranean "central railway station for Europe" is to be built; the Boulevard Périphérique around the city centre is to be expanded with two additional car tunnels and a circular metro, with new buildings being added as well. New Haussmann-like city axes are intended to satisfy Sarkozy's desire for prestige, while, along the Seine, a new underground infrastructure corridor is to be created. This will create free space above ground, which MVRDV wants to use for new inner-city residential purposes.
The Rotterdam architects want to build the new "Forêt Charles de Gaulle" airport as well as a vertical university campus with the name "Super Sorbonne". Their plan also envisages the planting of new trees in large forest areas and the erection of huge wind farms all around the city. Above all, however, the existing inner city is to be made denser wherever possible. A video about the project, which can be seen on YouTube on the Internet, starts off by firing a broadside aimed at the defenders of the property status quo in Paris to the effect that height and density in the city have almost become taboo topics and the preservation of historic buildings has developed into a total block on any actually useful approaches to renewal.

The "smaller greater Paris" can be seen with nine other visions of the city in "Cité de l’Architecture" in the Palais du Chaillot in Paris until the 22nd of November.

Jakob Schoof

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