Paris is a leader when it comes to optimizing the urban space. Since the start of the 21st century, the city has taken major initiatives to improve the quality of life for its citizenry, reducing pollution and vehicle traffic and reclaiming un- or mis-used city spaces for public enjoyment.
Join us on this photographic journey as we explore the history of some of the revitalization projects, in particular its newest public park, Les Berges de Seine.
Former mayor Bertrand Delanoë was instrumental in launching the city's latest revitalization projects, inaugurating in 2002 the famous Paris Plages, the city's now annual Seine-side beach, during which the river's Right Bank roadway is closed to make way for sand and lounge chairs. The idea behind Paris Plages was to provide an easily accessible outdoor experience for those who do not have the luxury of leaving the city's concrete confines during the hot summer months. Paris Plages was an enormous success, and since its inauguration, Paris has developed numerous other initiatives for the public good, like Vélib', its popular bicycle-sharing program, a new Highline-like structure on an abandoned elevated railway in the 15th arrondissement, and now, Les Berges. Even the current mayor, Anne Hidalgo, has followed in the footsteps of her predecessor by proposing a plan to reuse some of the city's abandoned métro stations as underground parks, gallery spaces, or even clubs.
The Berges was formerly a busy roadway dissecting the city east to west along the Left Bank. Since June 2013, 2.3 km of that roadway, from the Musée d'Orsay to the Pont de l'Alma, has been pedestrianized and transformed into a public promenade and park. It is open year-round.
Enjoying a waterside drink or meal is not new to Paris. There's been a tradition of spending the summer months along the Seine since the late 19th century with Guinguettes, open air dance halls much loved and depicted by impressionist artists. On Les Berges try Rosa Bonheur. The popular cafe in the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont has opened an outpost here, and it too has become a favorite among young Parisians.
If you're hungry, you can stop for a taco served from this vintage airstream. The trailer, and other such food outposts along Les Berges, have helped to bolster the food truck movement in Paris, which is changing the face of Parisian gastronomy overall.
Aside from the cafe terraces, Les Berges has a variety of other places to relax or picnic. In keeping with the eco-friendly approach, there are bench-like structures scattered throughout the park, like this one made of repurposed construction tubes. Others are made of old railway beams, perhaps a nod to the underground RER C railway line that used to run above ground along the river.
Or you can relax in a shady modern jungle. "The Orchard", located to the west of the Pont des Invalides, has 120 garden units growing mint, sage, pears, and plums, among other plants. The idea behind the Orchard was to allow Parisians to observe how a garden will change through the seasons, as well as to increase green space in the city.
For those with more than a stroll in mind, the area is an ideal location for exercising, with exercise stations, a running path, and even free yoga and Zumba classes.
Part of the philosophy of this new Les Berges is creating an interactive environment for the community, young and old alike. For example, there are plenty of recreations for active children, such as this climbing wall and obstacle course which has varying degrees of difficulty and is intended for children of all stages of development.
There are games for adults and teens as well. Simply pull up a chair. Game pieces can be borrowed from the park attendants.
Another interactive installation involves music. Here you can connect your music via bluetooth and allow others to dance to your selections. There are also art installations, or you can make your own art . . .
Artistically-minded visitors can stop in at the giant chalkboard, each day a new collaborative masterpiece making art accessible to all.
Visit the official site for an interactive map, agenda of activities, and other useful information.