The Champs-Élysées, the sprawling boulevard that connects the Place De La Concorde to the Arc De Triomphe in Paris, is going green. The mayor of the French capital Anne Hidalgo says that this traffic clogged four laned highway which sees an average of 3000 cars per hour, will be transformed into an “extraordinary garden”.
For years, Parisians and campaigning activists have declared their “horreur’ at the traffic and mass retail outlets that have turned the area into a noisy and bland district shunned by Parisians. The 250 million euros is an investment to improve the air quality in the city, with more trees being planted to create a green lung, giving Parisians their own ‘Hyde Park” and marks it as yet another ambitious green make-overs of this century, no doubt making other traffic ridden capital cities ‘green’ with envy. This reinvention follows Madrid Rio in Spain which saw multi lane highways converted into an 820 hectares park.
Architect Philippe Chiambaretta of PCA-STREAM is the mind behind the re-design. The plans revealed a Champs-Élysées that is barely recognisable with ‘green living rooms’ dotting the refreshed canvas of the area. From Place de la Concorde and Place de l’Étoile, a distance of 2.5 kilometres – the street will be largely pedestrianized without concrete. The architect also wants to rejuvenate the 15 hectares of gardens at the bottom of the Champs, turning concrete jungle, well into a jungle.
The plan is to keep up with other Parisian efforts to create green spaces in the densely populated capital, where elegant squares and tree-lined boulevards are often overwhelmed by vehicles. Chiambaretta’s vision is to create a space that is more attractive, ecological and inclusive in years to come.
The Mayor’s Green Initiative
A Champs-Élysées lobby group pushing for the project said it was “delighted with this announcement and welcomed the decision by the mayor’s office which appears to want to make the makeover of the Champs-Élysées one its main urban projects of this decade.” The transformation plan was a key part of Hidalgo’s re-election manifesto last year. Hidalgo’s efforts have helped to reduce traffic in the city, which have seen the closure of two main road arteries that ran along the river Seine and the building of new infrastructure for bikes and electric scooters.
The beginning of the city’s makeover
In 2019, American landscape architect Kathryn Gustafson was put in charge of a makeover for the Eiffel Tower area, where roads will also be turned into lawns and trees. The Champs-Élysées was first laid out in 1670 but was given a revamp by Baron Haussmann, the architect behind the transformation of Paris under Napoleon III in the mid-19th century.
Over the centuries, the avenue has lost its splendour. It has been the stage for the high and low moments in French history, hosting celebrations and commemorations – it is the site of the final leg of the Tour de France since 1975, the de Gaulle led celebratory military march as Paris was liberated from Nazi rule in World War Two, as well as protests and strikes. More recently, it was the scene of fierce clashes between “yellow vest” anti-government demonstrators and police in 2018 and 2019.
A Dramatic Reinvention
As the avenue is now lined with big chain stores, touristy cafes and fast-food restaurants, the dramatic makeover will take place in stages. First, the traffic infested Place de la Concorde square at the bottom of the thoroughfare, is scheduled for completion before the Paris Olympic Games in 2024. While the rest of the area will be completed by 2030. The nature of the businesses along the avenue is also expected to change. Citizens of Paris have asked for more authentically French retail offerings that emphasise on the French art of living and gastronomy characterized by the French ‘savoir faire.’ Although a couple of questions remain, such as where will the traffic go? What is the cost of the transplanting of major businesses? At Unreserved we say, Vive la Revolution Verte!
Source: AFP Relax News