|Photo by Freeimages.com/Grzegorz Stanecki|
by Soo Kim, The Daily Telegraph, July 5, 2016
A total of 14 projects was selected as part of the " Appel à Manifestation d’Intérêt (AMI) " initiative launched by SNCF, France’s national rail company, in collaboration with various artists, which aims to transform the city’s abandoned railway sites into a “unique cultural and artistic expression in France”.
La Station, the first of the series to be built, opened last month in the 18th arrondissement. The former warehouse is now a place for local artists to showcase their music, as well as a workshop for cooking, gardening and recycling projects.
More venues will be opened through September including Case, where a series of shipping containers in the 10th arrondissement will serve as exhibition and event spaces focused on promoting sustainability. The containers will offer galleries, a coffee and wine venue, as well as an Indian restaurant and an organic burger place.
An abandoned site in the suburb of Saint-Denis will be rebuilt as Open Cathedral, a garden and art-themed space for urban farming and the development of various agricultural projects, events and activities.
The scheme by SNCF is not the first redevelopment of the city’s disused railway spaces. The bar and restaurant La REcyclerie, built inside a former train station of the now abandoned Petite Ceinture line, has been open for two years and offers free weekly workshops and conferences on sustainability.
The newly opened Grand Train, on rue Ordener, was built on the site of a former SNCF depot and now features a train exhibition, live music and other events as well as various restaurants and a bar. A produce market and urban farm are also said to be joining the venue in the future.
Expected to open early next year, Le Hasard Ludique will also be built inside a derelict train station in the north of the 18th arrondissement. The community-centred bar, restaurant and music venue will “support all the arts” and offer “accessible prices for the local community”, its co-founder Vincent Merlet told The Guardian .
The latest renovations of former railway stations can be seen as part of the city’s wider move to address its environmental concerns and promote ‘greener’ ways of living, as shown at Freegan Pony, a vegan restaurant set up in a storage space at Porte de la Villette of the 19th arrondissement. It uses unsold produce from the food market Rungis to create various dishes including ratatouille and stir-fried vegetables, for which customers are asked to pay what they wish.
“Things are changing in Paris – even at government level now,” Aladdin Charni, co-founder of Freegan Pony, told The Guardian.
Back in 2014, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo announced a ‘€20m budget participatif’ initiative, which this year has been raised to €100m, inviting residents to contribute their thoughts on how to improve their way of life in the city. The mayor also recently launched the 'Reinvent Paris' competition which called on architects to propose designs for new ways of using the city’s public spaces.
One of Paris’s long-standing reinventions of its public spaces includes the annual instalment of Paris Plage, which has been a fixture of summer in the French capital for some years now. In July and August, visitors and locals can enjoy artificial beaches installed along the banks of the Seine and the Bassin de la Villette.
Last year, Ms Hidalgo promised to make the Seine clean and safe for swimming by 2024, following the announcement of the city's bid to host the Olympic Games the same year, hoping for the swimming leg of the Olympic triathlon event to be held in the river.
The same pledge was made by former French president Jacques Chirac in 1988 who said it would be ready for swimming by 1994, a year before the end of his term.
Paris Plage has been taking place every summer in July and August for several years in the French capital
But it appears that not much has been done to clean the river since, and swimming in the river is still off limits – as it has been since 1923. Those who dare to go for a swim face a €15 fine.
In 2012, a swimming event in the Seine was cancelled by authorities who deemed the water was too dirty and potentially hazardous to the health of the swimmers. In the same year, however, the 0.5 mile (750 metre) swimming portion of the Paris Triathlon was held in the Seine.
“The possibility for everyone to swim in the Seine will form part of the precious legacy that this collective Olympic adventure must leave us,” said Ms Hidalgo.
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This article was written by Soo Kim from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.