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The changing role of the Jardin Publique in the planning of Paris

Devereux, Michael

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Michael Devereux
Associate Professor of Teaching and Learning in Architecture and Urbanism


Paris, with 24,400 persons per km2( ), is the most densely populated capital city in Europe, yet at the same time it is one of the capitals that offers its inhabitants the least green space of all (Paris 13m2 per habitant compared with London 45m2) ( ). This presents enormous challenges for those planning the city. These are made all the more daunting by an emphasis on seeing that population grow.

Those planning Paris have placed great importance on the provision of open space when producing plans to cope with this density and even with increasing it. This has been so for the last 150 years, since the grand designs of Napoleon III and his city planner Baron Haussmann. What is noticeable over the last twenty years or so is that the role of the park in Paris has changed dramatically as planners see its position developing away from the traditional ‘jardin publique,’ traditionally laid out à l’anglaise, as in Bois de Boulogne and Buttes de Chaumont to, for example: a regeneration opportunity (La Villette 1982) a car free urban artery (Promenade Plantée, 1988), a space for local residents and workers (Parc André Citroen, 1992), an urban retreat (Jardin Atlantique, 1994) an educational tool (Parc Bercy, 1997), a social and cultural space (Paris Plage, 2002) a showcase for neighbourhood sustainability (La Cour du Maroc, 2007) and an ecological lifeline (Jardin des Grands Moulins, 2009). These and other recent Parisian parks are all distinct in the way they approach their particular responsibility, so bringing a new variety to the very formalistic Haussmannian layout of the city. This short paper argues that the park has become a planning tool par excellence in Paris and that the way in which the Mairie of Paris has pushed that agenda has lessons for planners in all large cities. For example, in June 2009, ‘The High Line’ a 2.33km long linear park directly modelled on La Promenade Plantée opened in New York and in 2011 the Bloomingdale Line will open in Chicago. This importance placed on the diverse uses of parks as central to urban living and as playing a vital role in modern Paris is set to continue with the redevelopment of Les Halles (starts 2010) and the particular emphasis it places on inclusion of a ‘health’ park ‘for all ages’ in the complete rebuilding of this quarter of the 1ère arrondissement in the heart of Paris.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 1, 2010
Deposit Date Aug 9, 2012
Publicly Available Date Nov 15, 2016
Journal PROJECT: Journal of the Department of Planning and Architecture
Print ISSN 2042-7654
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 2
Pages 66-69
Keywords Paris, parks, planning, history
Public URL
Publisher URL
Contract Date Nov 15, 2016


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