VIVE LA PLACE DE LA REPUBLIQUE!
Paris’s Place de la République, which should be one of the city’s handsomest squares, has long been a most unappealing and neglected place: noisy, with heavy traffic, parked tourist buses, smelly fast-food outlets, rats racing along the lawn of the unkempt little park on one of the center islands, garbage trucks parked on the sidewalk (yes, in the center of Paris!) being rinsed down by their drivers, etc. This is all supposed to change now that the city has approved a plan for its renovation (winning design by the agency TVK), which will add 50 percent more pedestrian space, widen sidewalks and plant more trees. A walkway will connect it to the nearby Canal Saint-Martin.
A little history: the square, created under the Second Empire, was so-named in celebration of the hundredth anniversary of the French Revolution, on the site of what had once been a promenade between Porte Saint-Denis and the Bastille built along the former city walls of Charles V during the time of Louis XIV. In 1759, public amusements and small theaters were authorized along the Boulevard du Temple (still home to the Cirque d’Hiver), giving it a festive ambiance for the next hundred years; the frightening spectacles performed in some of the theaters earned it the nickname “Boulevard du Crime.”
With an area of 37,000 square meters (60 percent of it currently taken up by automobile traffic, which the new design will reduce by 15 percent) and a monumental statue of Marianne, the symbol of France, in the center, it is the site of almost all of the many demonstrations held in this city where the citizens have long been in the habit of descending into the streets to make their demands heard. The inauguration of the new Place de la République is planned for spring 2013. We can’t wait to see its new, more peaceful and people-friendly (we hope) incarnation. Click here for more details.