My correspondent in Paris, Mary Campbell Gallagher, warns that its mayor, Anne Hidalgo, wants to replace the city’s historic newsstands with a new version of greater spaciousness but lesser gloire. In its relative mildness, this initiative seems to contradict almost all of her administration’s previous decisions aimed at destroying Paris’s beauty.
The proposal offers not the modernist insult to Paris that you would expect from her but rather an inarguably traditional style for the new kiosk. If not for the excellence of the existing historic kiosks, originally selected by Baron Haussmann, one might receive the new ones with open arms. Why has she not proposed littering Paris with wee abominations more in line with the major developments she has supported for the City of Light?
Is Hidalgo wimping out? That is the $64,000 question. The riches of Parisian beauty are an embarrassment to France’s architectural establishment and its cult-like infatuation with the modernist style. The establishment wants to ruin cityscapes around whose every corner lies an inarguable contradiction of its aesthetic philosophy. The mayor could have sapped the strength of this ubiquitous contradiction by strewing Paris with new modernist newsstands. Such a step would everywhere weaken the ambiance of loveliness that is the chief source of inspiration for those such as Mary Campbell Gallagher who oppose the uglification of Paris.
Campbell might be well placed to assess the politics behind Mayor Hidalgo’s newsstand initiative. I will report her analysis as soon as she sends it. In the meantime, she has sent a petition against the kiosks to sign for those who want to stop the mayor’s latest initiative.