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Why a Train Station Addition Has Parisians Outraged

The plan for a shopping-mall-like extension to the city’s 19th-century Gare du Nord is "inacceptable," a group of 19 architects say.
Gare Du Nord as it will look from Rue de Saint-Quentin after redevelopment.
Gare Du Nord as it will look from Rue de Saint-Quentin after redevelopment.SNCF Gares et Connexions

“Absurd.” An “urban mistake.” And a “grave offense to transit users.”

French architects certainly haven’t minced their words in lining up to attack a planned redevelopment of Paris’ Gare du Nord station. Last week, 19 architects, including Pritzger-winner Jean Nouvel, published an open letter in Le Monde castigating France’s national state-owned railway company, SNCF, for its plans to expand the largest rail station in Paris, increasing its surface area by more than two-thirds with a new development featuring a shopping mall and offices. The project, dubbed StatioNord, is part of a slate of transportation improvements that will help Gare du Nord in its future role as a hub connecting venues for the 2024 Olympic Games. But the plan, the architects insist, would be inherently harmful to Paris’s patrimony and function as a steel-and-glass insult to rail users. Those are pretty strong words, but when you look closely at the project, they might be fair.