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Design

New Ideas for Paris's Outdated Infrastructure

After a criticized first installment, the city's design competition has a wider talent pool and a fairer distribution of commissions to redesign urban sites.
Paris Metro's Croix Rouge station, as it might appear after a planned conversion to a restaurant and bar.
Paris Metro's Croix Rouge station, as it might appear after a planned conversion to a restaurant and bar.SAME Architectes

When a city’s transportation infrastructure undergoes a massive transformation, what happens to the obsolete hardware? Architects and planners in Paris have been seeking answers to this question over the past two years, as part of a competition launched by City Hall.

Called Reinvent Paris II, the competition invited designers to come up with uses for a list of subterranean and marginal sites owned (with two private exceptions) by the city, or its transit authority RATP. Paris has long had a good deal of these: its subsoil is a honeycomb of tunnels, garages, sewers, and catacombs, while above ground it has a fair few historic road and rail links now supplanted by alternatives. In recent years, however, pro-pedestrian, pro-bike policies have notably swelled the number of these spaces, as pedestrianization along the Seine quays has closed tunnels and policies steadily phasing out access for more heavily polluting cars have made parking less of a priority.