This past Saturday, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo announced a campaign to reclaim some of the city’s most beautiful but also most congested squares for pedestrians. Paris will allot €30 million ($34 million) to rerouting and cutting road traffic and opening up seven iconic public spaces to make them more friendly to people on foot. The seven squares slated for redesign are the Place de la Bastille, the Place d'Italie, the Place de la Nation, the Place du Panthéon, the Place de la Madeleine, and the less well-known Place Gambetta and Place des Fêtes. No concrete plans have been announced yet, but Parisians will help shape the redesign through a period of public consultation.
The first five of the targeted squares are grand historical ensembles that will probably be familiar to many people who have visited Paris. That said, by Paris’s unmatchable standards, they are (with the exception of the Place de la Bastille) second-rank squares—slightly less famous and iconic than, say, the Place de l'Étoile or Place Vendôme. They are without exception impressive spaces—broad acreages of cobblestones often lined with honey-colored buildings fronted by elegant wrought-iron balconies. They boast combinations of public gardens, café terraces, and bombastic monuments that remain an urban planning ideal for many people across the world.