Le Grand Paris - Seeking a New Metropolitan Chronotope | The Plan
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Le Grand Paris - Seeking a New Metropolitan Chronotope

Paris has always sought and known how to shape its present to envisage the future. Its forward path is clearly outlined, and even if things proceed in stops and starts, the city remains generously open in its search for ways to combine its densely stratified past with new and complex horizons. In this time of transition, the Grand Paris project has cast everything into question, opening everything up to debate and reflection. Yet the city remains the central focus of ideas on the future. The fact that Paris achieves this feat of constant metamorphosis at different scales, in different ways and across many different districts is, we think, highly significant. It is a city able both to adopt a topical approach in the manner of acupuncture, or to conduct major surgery on wide, once vital urban swathes that changes in society, production and the city’s role have side-lined.
The administrative perimeter of Paris is relatively small. The early 20th century saw many European capitals meet swelling urban population by extending their administrative boundaries to include overspill areas in a much larger metropolitan embrace. Although Paris annexed the little towns on its immediate outskirts in 1860, it retained the boundaries marked out by the Thiers Wall, built between 1841 and 1844 and demolished at the beginning of the 20th century. Still today this “boundary” denotes the administrative extension of the city. This was physically and symbolically reinforced by the Boulevard Périphérique, the outer ring road, built in the 1960s on the site of the former Thiers Wall. In addition, the termini of the first subway system built at the end of the 19th century were located in front of the city gates, further reinforcing the old boundaries. As a result, today Paris appears one of the world’s largest historic urban centres yet one of its smallest capitals! The fairly regular streetscape and skyline - maximum building height was exceeded...

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