A viaduct in Paris

December 8, 2011

This post is not about the viaduc des arts and its promenade plantée which has been the object of a previous post. While Vancouver is thinking that destroying its viaduct structures is forward thinking, and some even suggest that this tabula rasa thinking is at the root of good urbanism…Paris is building more viaducts…

The Parisian Viaduct:

Avenue pierre mendes France, in Paris: It is a viaduct! 40 meters wide and streescape structure similar to Pacific Boulevard at Davie (Vancouver BC)... (credit photo, wikipedia)

The “Avenue Pierre Mendès France” viaduct, built between 1995 and 2001 (general conception by Paul Andreu) is one of the most recent addition to the Paris grid, in the new “rive gauche” district. You will notice, that well proven urban concepts have been applied, be in the building form lining the viaduct, the rectitude of the street, or the streescape…One will eventually find the result to be more convincing that on Pacific Boulevard (Vancouver) of similar width, and that is eventually the reason why you see people in the median which has its own name:

  • promenade Jules-Isaac

Which says enough of the objective filled by this avenue. Notice also how only one lane of general traffic per direction is offered, and how the bike lane is implemented in the median (in my opinion the best solution).

Under the viaduct

No painted blue sky here! railtrack and their platform (under construction) doesn't prevent to neglect the experience under the viaduct. credit photo (1).

In this case, the required right of way has necessarily constrained the piles disposition, but it is in fact a general Parisian style piles disposition we find in most, if not all of the city metro viaducts which allow an exploitation of the underneath space in both direction (you can see, how advantageous it can be under Vancouver’s Cambie bridge South side)

Beside the viaduct (or almost)

It is the jardin Abbe Pierre, opened in 2009, which is supposed to filter StormWater before letting them running directly into the Seine river.

the Abbe Pierre garden is below the "street" level credit photo (2)

Elevated view point on park and garden has been a common feature of the “jardin à la française“, but the relatively new sunken garden trend offers some attractive features:

  • It provides a sense of intimacy, by “removing” you of the rest of the city
  • It tends to be away of the street noise propagation pathes

In the case of the abbé Pierre garden, the artificial elevation of the street provides a pretext for the sunken garden…It is a nature garden, designed to filter storm water, and feature a swamp, as well as an insectarium to support the eco-system.

The example also apply a rule of thumb.

  • If a space under a structure is not usable, close it to the public!

The Vancouver viaducts

Thought the idea to treat the viaduct as a street is not new, and find some ground at the edge of the Dunsmuir and Georgia viaduct, as well as Granville Bridge: Paris could have still one thing or two to teach to Vancouver, especially when come to talk about viaducts on a bigger scale…

Lot of proposal have found inspiration in the promenade plantée (or the New York High Line) including the winning entry 71, in the recent Vancouver viaduct competition, but curiously enough, the unfortunate entry 109 was one of the only one, to consider the viaduct streetwise [3]:

In those Dunsmuir viaduct views, the viaduct is treated as a "street/promenade" stitched with premises, and still open enough to provide vantage points (the skytrain track provides also some challenge, but which can be addressed relatively well


[1] http://www.capremib.com

[2] http://paris.foxoo.com

[3] entry 7titled “make it a street” mentioned the idea but more by raising the rest of the grid to the viaduct level

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One Response to “A viaduct in Paris”

  1. rico Says:

    Interesting, seems like an approach we could learn from.


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