After a criticized first installment, the design competition has a wider talent pool and a fairer distribution of commissions to redesign sites.
Called Reinvent Paris II,1 the competition invited designers to come up with uses for a list of subterranean and marginal sites owned (with two private exceptions) by the city, or its transit authority RATP. Paris has long had a good deal of these: its subsoil is a honeycomb of tunnels, garages, sewers, and catacombs, while above ground it has a fair few historic road and rail links now supplanted by alternatives. In recent years, however, pro-pedestrian, pro-bike policies have notably swelled the number of these spaces, as pedestrianization along the Seine quays has closed tunnels and policies steadily phasing out access for more heavily polluting cars have made parking less of a priority.
These recent policy shifts under Mayor Anne Hidalgo arguably reflect an ongoing drop in car use as much as they have sparked it. Between 1992 and 2017, the number of cars in inner Paris has dropped by 32 percent, while over the last 23 years a remarkable two-thirds of Greater Paris’s gas stations have closed. Faced with a city scattered with unused remnants of transit past, the city used Reinvent Paris II to offer up sites including a ghost Métro station, a road tunnel rendered useless by nearby pedestrianization, spaces under elevated RATP tracks, and an old garage near the beltway.
- 1. Offering a far more valuable and conventional set of city-owned sites, Reinvent Paris I’s lackluster results led to Mayor Hidalgo’s administration being accused of favoring large-scale developers with connections to power, selling off development land in a quasi-transparent process that delivered boring, superficially green-washed designs. These included an apartment building shown smothered in greenery that, it turned out, would rely solely on plantings by tenants, and a site with great potential near the beltway where applicants proposing public park spaces were rejected in favor of a design that used the building to create a private forest for luxury penthouse buyers.