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Local Matters / Changing Landscape

Reinventing Paris: competition finalists announced

Reinventer Paris

Paris selects 75 finalists to create or renovate sites throughout the French capital as part of its urban design competition “Réinventer Paris”.

Results of the first phase of the competition entitled “Réinventer Paris” or “Reinventing Paris” have been released. The project involved a request for proposals from 650 teams of architects and developers to reimagine 23 sites throughout the city. The list of 75 finalists can be seen on the dedicated Réinventer Paris website.

The sites involve a total of 150,000 square meters. Targeted buildings include:

the impressive 17th century mansion Hôtel de Coulanges in the Marais, once the home of famed author La Marquise de Sévigné; and the Castagnary Street Bathhouse in the 15th arrondissement, a small red brick building from the 1930s. One finalist submitted plans for a 10,000m2 building for one site, an empty lot in the Masséna neighborhood in Paris’ 13th arrondissement.

A variety of structures and spaces will thus serve as canvasses for architects, urban planners, start-ups and associations to build, innovate and leave their mark on the French capital.

On November 3rd of last year, 650 teams of developers and innovators were invited to “ponder, think and think big” when Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo announced the project and invited their participation. Some were skeptical of the unpaid contest, but the number of submissions was plentiful nonetheless: 372 teams submitted their proposals this May, far more than anticipated.

The competition brought together unexpected partnerships. Bruno Rousseau, CEO of social housing group 3F, found himself working with “partners that are not usually part of building projects at such an early stage, but who might join later on as tenants.” Architects and developers united with NGOs, chefs, rooftop farmers, librarians, nightclub managers and residents.

In accordance with the city’s direction, many of the proposals focused on social inclusion and ethical purposes; youth hostels and social housing were numerous. The innovative ideas also emphasized eye-catching views and attractive terraces, with the hope of infusing life and social activity into buildings that have fallen into disuse. That innovation extends from the structures themselves to the manner of funding them, with proposals including crowd-funding and resident cooperatives.

One site ripe for change also sits in the Masséna neighborhood of the 13th arrondissement, a dilapidated station built in 1883 and abandoned since 1998. A proposal for a Babel-inspired wooden tower housing everything from offices to a three-story farm compete against an “urban lighthouse” complete with social housing and sports facilities. Brazilian group Urbem—who submitted proposals for 12 of the 23 sites—hopes to turn the station into a greenhouse and tapas bar flanked by a 14-story-high earthen edifice containing inter-generational residential apartments.

Jean-Louis Missika, Paris’ deputy in charge of innovation and economic developments and conductor of this experiment, explains the approach as “abandoning traditional patterns and trusting private actors to deliver novel ideas”. He describes most projects as being “private buildings of general interest”.

Some critique the venture as a “privatization” of the city’s responsibilities. In her remarks to Les Echos, Catherine Jacquot, president of the Association of Architects, sees it as, “the city has neither ideas nor money and is asking developers to think and pay in its place”. For Eric Mazoyer, CEO of Bouygues Immobilier, the question is whether the city’s good intentions can “withstand the very large check” that a not-so-innovative project might offer, particularly since that could be used to fund innovation on other sites.

Missika assured that money was not one of the criteria for candidate selection, and that the city has every intention of following through on the promise to select the best projects and see them through.

The winners will be announced at the end of the year.

Related topics:

Les Halles redevelopment project nearing completion

Montparnasse neighborhood gets a make-over

Samaritaine renovation gets the green light

Greening up Paris one small space at a time

Vertical gardens in Paris?

photo credit: Maire de Paris

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