In principle, I am a supporter of Paris’s current mayor, Anne Hidalgo, who is up for re-election next year, but I strongly resent the way she has allowed the introduction of so many ugly elements into the streets of what used to be the most beautiful city in the world. I didn’t have to go far to take photos of some of the worst offenders. The Place de la République and nearby streets are home to a heavy concentration of them.
The new trash bins in the picture above may be ratproof, but they are also great examples of bad design. And why, oh why, do they have to place these behemoths next to Hector Guimard’s beautiful and delicately wrought Art Nouveau Métro entrances?
Nearby is what is supposed to be a memorial to the victims of terrorist attacks in Paris, but it looks more like the foundation for a rough log cabin (made out of outsized Popsicle sticks banged together with a few nails) imprisoning a garden of weeds and surrounded by dirt. What is this doing in Paris?
I am totally in favor of providing places to sit on the Place de la République, but why these monstrosities that look like worn-out telephone poles that have fallen over. What would Baron Haussmann think?
Many of these elements not only look ugly but also stink to high heaven. It is bad enough that men commonly urinate in the streets with impunity, turning the city into a giant pissoir, but what’s the point of the urinoir pictured above when the solution is even smellier than the problem?
To make matters worse, this one is placed just off the square, next to the spot where crowds of people have to stand and wait for the light to change while being poisoned with the fumes not only from the passing traffic but also from the open-air toilet. And to make matters even worse, this pissoir stands just under a historical plaque commemorating the site of Daguerre’s Diaporama and the lab where the Daguerreotype was invented.
Pissing in public is a misdemeanor, and the perpetrators should be fined, a surefire deterrent. Who doesn’t remember the Paris of 10 or 15 years ago, when strollers were in constant danger of stepping in a pile of dog shit? As soon as the city got serious about fining dog owners, the problem evaporated as they began to clean up after Fifi and Mimi.
There must be better, more attractive solutions to the city’s problems. Instead of wasting money on a ridiculous video intended to discourage people from urinating in the street and polite signs like the one above that are so easy to ignore, why doesn’t the city hire a consulting firm that could suggest real ways to beautify Paris while solving the problem of overuse like those the Place de la République suffers from (BTW, I haven’t seen any of these ugly appurtenances in Paris’s beaux quartiers – is it a class thing?). And don’t forget to fine perpetrators and maybe invest in birth control for rats (yes, it exists) rather than trying to keep them out of the trash or poison them.
And, before I end this rant, let me add one just more thing (I could go on…). Why doesn’t the city of Paris do something serious about the terrible air and noise pollution from cars and motorcycles?
Send your photos of ugly street furniture in Paris to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will publish those that are appropriate on this page.