Skip to content
CityLab
Design

A High-Stakes Contest to 'Reinvent' Paris Fails to Impress

At least one local newspaper is questioning the city’s influence over a major architectural design competition.
The winning proposal for the Clichy Batignolles site in Northern Paris.
The winning proposal for the Clichy Batignolles site in Northern Paris.Mairie de Paris

The huge “Reinventing Paris” competition was the sort of opportunity most cities are lucky to get once in a generation. Launched by Paris City Hall last year, the contest picked out 23 key sites across the city and invited architects to think up brave, beautiful new uses for areas that were underexploited, unloved, or lackluster. Among the candidates were a bus depot, an old swimming baths, an electricity substation, and slivers of land cleared around the beltway but never built on.

While the winning designs came with attached funders who would pay for the projects, this was about more than just cash for land. Priority was supposed be given to environmentally friendly designs that didn’t just provide fresh welcoming spaces for a site’s new tenants, but also offered some general improvement for all Parisians—be it more housing, public amenities, or greenery.