Here is the Reinventing Paris video displaying, in quick succession, the 23 finalists for 23 development sites in a contest sponsored by the municipality under Mayor Anne Hidalgo. The text is in French, and I cannot therefore reconcile why it refers to 74 finalists as 23 images flash onscreen. So I add a CityLab/Atlantic piece, “A High-Stakes Competition to ‘Reinvent’ Paris Fails to Impress,” by Feargus O’Sullivan, who concludes that “Paris appears to have totally botched it.” He adds:
They’re mainly standard-issue contemporary boxes with façades effaced by greenery, their bulk lurking behind verdant balconies and green walls of the sort that tend to thrive with greater lushness in renderings than in real life.
Writers at CityLab usually seem to like that sort of thing. Anyhow, a couple of proposals at the beginning of the video seem actually rather nice, but that may be because the image does not truly display the intent of the project.
On Feb. 3, Mary Campbell Gallagher of SOS Paris sent the video to TradArch along with a few choice comments. Her anger is entirely appropriate:
Today the City of Paris opened a huge exhibit of designs submitted in its competition to “Réiventer Paris.” Held in a city museum, the Pavillon de l’Arsenal, the exhibit fulfills the evil promise of its name. The designs on exhibit bear no resemblance whatsoever to Paris. This is the latest in a series of exhibits in which City Hall uses its public museums to persuade the public that blight is beautiful.
Reinvent Paris? The very idea is ridiculous, nay it is vile. I recall a symposium called “Transforming Providence” sponsored by the city’s design elite, most of whom push for more avant-garde buildings in what was and still is city whose traditional fabric remains among the most intact in the nation (if not as intact as that of Paris). The late Buddy Cianci, attending the symposium as mayor, revealed that he was capable of being manipulated, too, when he said Providence does not want to be a “museum.” That is modernist boilerplate rhetoric that actually means “wreck the beauty of the city by inserting more insensitive modern architecture wherever possible.” Slowly, Providence has been following this advice, and it has grown uglier – but too slowly for most people to worry or notice. This is what is likely to happen in Paris, too, if Mayor Hildago has her way.
I will post my two columns from the fall of 2000, “Don’t transform Providence” and “Don’t transform Providence II.”