Over Under Paris- Melany Gomez

An Exploration of Paris through its parks and green spaces by Melany Gomez

Introduction 

Intent of Project:

As citizens of our nation, it is only right that we have free access to spaces within our city. Throughout my project and my exploration of Paris across metro ligne 2, I would like to compare the differences between the ways the United States and France approach the public access to recreational areas like parks squares and gardens. Through my project, I will also touch on observations made in each of my stops which pertain to issues such as immigration, economic disparities, religion among other big ideas. Moreover, this project will also give a thorough summary of the history of line 2 as well as of each of the ten stops selected. 

French Revolution:

To talk about the current government in France and to not mention the French Revolution of the 18thcentury is akin to explaining to someone how a cake was made and forgetting to mention the flour. The French Revolution was and continues to be the key ingredient in the making of today’s modern France. For the purpose of this project, I will not go over all the details of how the Revolution emerged, however, it is important to understand how spaces were regulated before and after the French Revolution as well as how the funds were managed. As explained in an article by Gemma Betros, the church’s income in 1789, was estimated to be around 150 million livres. Moreover, the church also owned around 6% of all the land in France. The king owned all the land in France and attributed certain amounts of it to nobles who then were able to tax the peasant living in these lands and gain revenue through this method. At the verge of the French Revolution the country under the rule of Louis XVI was close to bankruptcy, when the rebels took over France they started seizing land from the church in 1789 and created France’s new National Assembly which created a decree in which it gave all authority of the lands of France to the nation rather than the church and the nobles, thus impeding the church from being funded by the government in the future. These lands seized as a result of the French Revolution, especially those obtained from the churches, were then used for the public and gave birth to various parks and public spaces around France who are now free to everyone. The French Revolution had in mind the goal of freeing the people and the country from the tyranny of monarchies who oppressed the lower-class citizens and exploited the resources of the country for their own gain. Therefore, as a result of these ideals of the revolution, we now see that Paris a city that values the education and well-being of its citizens. 

History of Line 2:

After the French Revolution and as a result of the Industrial Revolution in France plans to build the first-ever métropilitainin Paris appeared in 1845. However, it was not until 1898 that a déclaration d’utilité publiquewas created stating the public benefit of the first 6 lines and construction began right away with the hope of finishing in time for the 1900 World Fair. The first station was not actually built until July 19, 1900, eleven years after the Eiffel Tower which accentuated the arrival of this revolution to France (Mills, 2019). The second line was built around the same time as line 1 finishing a couple of months later in December of that same year and it did not adopt the current configuration until April 1903. The line currently measures 12.4 km (7.7 miles) in length with 2 km ,of that 12.4 km, having been built over Paris and 10.4 km under Paris. 

Why Parks?:

The health of a city is not measured by the number of buildings it has nor the amount of tourist that come to it. The health of a city is measured by the number of green and recreational spaces available to its people. A study conducted by Wood et.al. 2017, showed that positive mental health is associated with the availability of parks, green areas and recreational activities such as sports. This study showed that access to these areas in local neighborhoods and at walking distance is very important to the mental health of the citizens of this area. Given the importance of parks and what we know about the influence of the French Revolution, it would be interested to explore Paris not by looking at its buildings but rather by looking at its parks and recreational areas where people of all cultures gather and by observing the health of the surrounding neighborhood.

Stop 1: Porte Dauphine

Photos taken at "Jardins de l'Avenue Foch" by Melany Gomez

This is the first stop of the Paris metro line 2 from the west, it is one of the three remaining dragonfly Metro entrances. This design was created by Hector Guimard who was an architect commission in 1899 to design the entrances for each station. It is the only station with the complete set of the original cream-color tilework present at the time of its opening in 1900. This is located right in Jardins de l’Avenue Foch which extends for 1.5 km long. This garden was created commissioned by Napoleon III, and its landscape was engineered by Alphand. When first opened the garden contained around four thousand trees from all over France as well as Germany, Belgium and Algeria. The area surrounding this station contains quintessential Haussmann style buildings and it is a very quiet and elegant neighborhood. 

As observed through my visit, the green space is utilized to relax, picnic with friends or alone, as well as to read books. Throughout an observation of the life in this area of Paris, I perceived that when compared to Miami the lifestyle people lead is much more relaxed. Based on an article in the New York Times by Niraj Chokshi, currently, the stress levels of the people of the United States are among one of the highest in the whole world due to an increase in violence, an unhealthy work-life balance, and the collapse of basic services from the government to its citizens. On the other hand, with its new labor deal, France has managed to encourage employers to restrain from sending emails and making phone calls after hours (Gregoire, 2019). This government set boundary along with its 35-hour of work a week policy, allows its citizens to make use of the beautiful green areas available for free all-around Paris where they can come by themselves or with their families thus having a more balanced life. An increase of green spaces within walking distance in Miami alone will not cure the United States of the high levels of stress, however providing this service to the public can result in lower levels of crime and violence which is one of the aspects contributing to the stress Americans face today (“Importance of Parks”,2019). From learning to set boundaries with our employers to having green areas within walking distance of our home, I believe the United States could really learn some valuable lessons from France in order to improve its citizens quality of life. 

Stop 2: Monceau

Photos taken at "Parc Monceau" by Melany Gomez

Although line 2 was constructed in December 1900, it only went from Porte Dauphine to Charles de Gaulle-Étoile. However, in 1902 new stops opened as a result of the extension of line 2 on of which was Monceau. This station was named after a nearby village in the area which was originally annexed by Paris in 1860. The Monceau station today still displays the design of the Art Nouveau architect Hector Guimard which back in 1900 outraged the people in Paris because of its bold design. The installation of these across the stations ceased and some of the existing stations with this design were renovated. However, today these entrances are thought to be historical monuments of the city of Paris and are being preserved (Maximale,2013).

In front of the Monceau station is the Parc Monceauwhich originally belonged to Duke of Chartres in 1769. Within this land, he introduced buildings of all styles and eras, such as ruins of a Temple of Mars, a Gothic castle, Egyptian pyramid, Tartar Tent, Chinese pagoda among other which now makes this park very unique and whimsical. Moreover, he dug a lake along which he built a basin surrounded by Corinthian columns, inspired by the tombs of Valois of Saint-Denis Basilica. During the revolution, however, this was seized and it became public property. Later in 1852, the state acquired it and under the command of Napoleon III the park was cut in half to build other building around it and it was redesigned one last time by modified one last time by the engineer Alphand, the architect Davioud and the horticulturist Barillet-Deschamps. In 1861 then Napoleon III opens its doors to the people of Paris (“Parc Monceau, 2019). 

Today, within this park you can find a very harmonious mix of families, Parisian lovers, sunbathers , and people being physically active. Currently, in the United States less than 5% of adults participate in 30 minutes of physical activity each day whereas 45% of adults in France reach the recommended WHO physical activity levels (“Facts &”, 2017; “France Physical”, 2016). This is something that is evident, as you walk through Paris and see young and older people alike running and walking to remain physically active. Moreover, the parks around Paris like Monceau are contributing factors to the great difference in the level of physical activities between these countries, given as how the availability of parks at walking distance of people’s home increases the chances of them engaging in exercise. Although we do have parks in Miami, the majority of them are not within walking distance of people’s home and they do not predominate as much as they do in Paris. As I walked through Paris, I realized the city is focused on the safety and comfort of pedestrians, with stores and markets within walking distances of homes, and traffic signs with the only purpose of allowing pedestrians to cross. When compared to Miami, Paris is a city oriented more towards the wellbeing of its people which is perhaps a result of the legacy the French Revolution left in France. 

Stop 3: Place de Clichy

Photos taken at "Square des Deux Néthes" by Melany Gomez

This is the 9thstation from the west of line 2 and it is situated in the 18th arrondissement. The station opened on October 1902 and was named after Barrière de Clichy. Barrière de Clichywas a gate built between 1784 and 1788 with the intention of collecting taxes as part of the Walla of the Farmer-General (“Place de Clichy”, 2018). It is near Montmartre Cemetery which is the third largest necropolis in Paris. Near this stop is alsoSquare des Deux Nètheswhich was first opened as it is now in June 2005 (“Square des Deux”, 2019). This green space was part of a series of green spaces founded in the 18tharrondissement since 2001 (“How Paris plans”,2019). It is a very small and practical recreational area where people of various cultural backgrounds gather. This green space was created as part of a project with the purpose of improving the property value of the 18th arrondissement and improve the lives of people in this area (“How Paris plans”,2019). This area was predominantly populated by people of non-European cultures who appeared to be immigrants. Through this stop, you are able to observe the economic disparity that exists in France which is reflected not only in the size and richness of the parks but also in the surrounding areas of such. Currently, although France is still among one of the best countries at redistributing wealth, many citizens are protesting the increase in wages and in disparities between the higher classes and the lower classes. According to an article by Khatya Chhor of “France 24” news, the top one percent in France at the moment receive 11 percent of the total income in France. Nevertheless, it is important to appreciate the local government’s effort to improve the life in the 18 arrondissement through the allocation of money towards this area since 2001 to create green spaces like Square des Deux Nèthesand and improve other structures, as well as through the increase in security through the creation of municipal police force: which does not exist currently in Paris (“How Paris plans”,2019). 

Stop 4: Pigalle

Photos taken at "Square Jehan-Rictus" by Melany Gomez

This station is located in the 18tharrondissement, under the Boulevard the Clichy in Montmartre. It is near the well know Pigalle red-light district where Moulin Rouge is. The station was opened in 1902 and was named after Barrière Pigalle, much likePlace Clichy, which was part of the Wall of the Farmers-General which was demolished in the 19thcentury (“Pigalle”,2018). Near this stop is Square Jehan-Rictus which was built with the purpose of paying tribute to Gabriel Randon of Saint-Amand. Moreover, the small square was built on the site of the former town hall of Montmartre. Within this square, there is a wide range of trees and plants such as palm trees, shrubs, roses, mallow of sycamore maples among others (“Square Jehan-Rictus”, 2019). The style of this square is more English-like than French-like, where nature is allowed to take its course and grow as it would in the wild. Towards the front of this park is a wall designed by Frédéric Baron. He went to neighbors of different cultural backgrounds as well as embassies to find out how to say the phrase “I Love You” in as many languages as possible. He was finally able to write this sentence in 311 different languages, because he believed that in a world where there is so much violence and where walls are built to keep people out and to defend oneself from the dangers of the world, it was important to have one wall that brought us together and become a place where lovers meet (“Lemur”,2019). 

In this area of Paris art is particularly alive. The memory of hundreds of artists across the centuries resides here. Most if not all famous artists like Picasso, who lived in France made this place their home. We saw the birth of cubism in Montmartre which was a very influential movement of the 20thcentury (“Famous People”, 2019). Art and Paris have always seemed to be hand in hand with major artistic movements taking place here. As a country, France appears to the world as one who really values art and takes pride in this. This notion of adulating art and making it a major part of the French culture, was perhaps introduced by Louis XIV who really stressed the need to enrich the French culture with his expansion of Versailles and his wide collection of paintings, as well as his creation of the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpturein 1648 (“Louis XIV”,2019).

As a tribute to the arts in Paris and its contribution to the world I have written the following poem:

Songs of those who’ve gone,
Endure through the years to come,
They cure our hearts of sorrow,
And give us hope for tomorrow.
 
Words of those who’ve gone,
Stay behind till the break of dawn,
They flourish in new minds,
and hide ideas for the world to find.
 
Brushstrokes of those of who’ve gone,
Remain intact where the lines were drawn,
They bring beauty to the eyes,
And enlighten us with their lies.

Stop 5: La Chapelle

Photos taken at "Jardins Rosa-Luxemburg" by Melany Gomez

La Chapelle station is situated right at the border of the 10thand 18tharrondissements. This is one of the stops over Paris and it was opened in 1903 (“La Chapelle”,2019).Near this station is the Jardins Rosa-Luxemburg. These green areas were built over land that was previously developed which might have contained polluted soil. It was developed with the purpose of urbanizing the Paris-Nord-Est sector. This is also the site of the first urban solar PV plant in (“France Jardins”, 2019).Currently, all the power needs of this Halle Pajol are met through 1988 solar panels. Moreover, the park itself is meant to instill the feeling of peace to its visitors by offering a place where they can respire and escape the commotion of their busy lives (Network, 2019).The change between the wasteland that it was to the modern green space and source of renewable energy that it currently is, is quite drastic and a great representation of France’s environmental consciousness. The country is currently planning to reduce the nuclear-power generation share by 25% by the year 2025 through the introduction of renewables much like it was done in this garden (Stiftung, 2019). Moreover, as seen in this park as well as various other places around Paris, they also implement recycling of plastic, glass, paper and even compost. Currently, our world is in dire need of saving. This month of July 2019 Paris has seen its highest all-time temperature of 42.6C (108.7 F) which many accredit to global warming (Freedman, 2019). It is inspiring to see such an influential city take matters into its own hands by taking measures to reduce waste and setting ambitious goals for the future. 

Stop 6: Jaures

Photos taken at "Square du quai de la Loire" by Melany Gomez

The station of Jaures was inaugurated in 1903. Originally the station was calledRue d’Allemagne however as tensions with Germany increased right before World War I the name was changed to Rue de France.It was not until Jean Jaurès, a socialist and pacifist, was assassinated that they changed the name to Jaures (Jaurès, 2019). Near this stop is a very unique square called Square du quai de la Loire. This green area is right by the Canal de l’Ourcq, a wonderful area to have an afternoon stroll and watch the sunset. This square also houses four three-hundred-year-old Judean Trees (Cercis siliquastrum) (“Square du quai”, 2019). Like the guardians of Paris, they have seen the city transform throughout the centuries. They have witnessed the unity of France during the French Revolution, when its people stood up for their rights and came together to inspire the European nations to follow along their footsteps. Today, still with that spirit of unity, the community of Paris comes together in this park to bathe in the waters of the Ourq river in the 19tharrondissement. In previous years, since 1923, this river was actually prohibited to bathe in. It was not until 2017 when the current mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, lifted this prohibition (Leloup, 2019).Now, especially during the heatwave of this month of July, the citizens of this area are able to swim in these waters and rest by the sandboxes near it and celebrate it as an event which is funded by their government. This is a great display of community which very accurately represents the Parisian spirit. Even a small square by the canal has the power to increase the well-being of the citizens and help them cope with the effects of global warming. 

Stop 7: Couronnes

Photos taken at "Bellevile Park" by Melany Gomez

The Couronnes station was created in 1903 once line 2 was extended (“Couronnes” ,2019).Soon after its inauguration, however, it encountered a major disaster. Train 43 had been having troubles on the afternoon of August 10, 1903, and due to the passenger’s irritability and unhappiness with the service of the train, they decided to continue the normal route and despite clouds of smoke and clear signs that the train should be stopped. Finally, at 8 pm a fire broke out at Couronnes station that prompted the crew to flee for their lives. However, some passengers stayed behind demanding a refund of the fare paid to ride the train. Soon the place became inescapable and many people died from asphyxia. A total of 84 people died in this incidence. Following this catastrophe, the Metro system took a series of corrective measures such as dividing each line into an electrically isolated section, widening station exits, and multiple-unit trains were adopted. Today, thanks to these measures and many others taken by the metro system, the chances of something like this happening again are minuscule (“Paris Métro” 2019).

Despite its tragic history, Couronnes is currently a very safe and busy stop. It is near park Belleville, a beautiful and spacious park right in the middle of modern buildings from the 20thcentury. The park is situated on a hill which was used by religious communities in the middle ages to plant vines. From the 14thto the 18thcentury taverns reigned over this hill. In the 18thcentury, however, the land was used mainly for agricultural use, and windmills were placed on the hill. It was not until the 20thcentury that the area was used as a park. During hot summers the citizens of Paris are welcome to bathe in the fountains and find shade under the 1200 trees and shrubs found in the park (“Parc de Belleville”,2019). Throughout centuries the spaces we now see and utilize in Paris have metamorphized with the city, although some buildings have been able to withstand the test of time. It is incredible to explore a city with so much history and it is astonishing to see how its history has shaped its current situation. Before the Revolution, during extremely hot weather it is very unlikely that the church would have allowed the peasants to bathe freely in the public fountains. The country has come a long way when it comes to respecting and protecting each of its citizens, even if it is in the simplest ways such as providing a refreshing area for the community around this park to cool down in.

Stop 8: Pere Lachaise

Photos taken at "Square de la Roquette" by Melany Gomez

Pere Lachaise was first opened in 1903 for line 2. It takes its name after the Pere Lachaise Cemetery and in it became the first metro station to have an escalator in 1909 (Wikipedia Contributors, 2019). Near this stop is the square de la Roquette. Initially, this square was established by Henry III as a vast estate in the 16thcentury, later in the 17thcentury however it became a convent (“Square de la Roquette,” 2019). It remained a convent until 1836 when the Assemblée Nationale publicized a competition for the design of a new prison. Charles Lucas is the winner of this contest and his design is implemented and it became a prison in 1836 called La Petite Roquette. During World War II the Nazis utilized this prison to detain women who were members of the resistance and they remained in these prisons under the care of nuns and police guard. By 1943 cells meant to hold only one prisoner, were holding up to five prisoners at a time, usually, they would contain around two common criminals and three women from the resistance. A total of 4000 women members of the resistance were placed in this prison until 1944 when France was liberated from the Nazis. The prison was destroyed in 1974 and only the sentry boxes at the main entrance remain (Roust, 2014). Currently, the park is a great open green space with lovely flower beds, fountains which the townspeople use during hot weathers. Within the park you can find areas for specific for different demographics, such as the playground for children, basketball court for young adults and relaxing lawns for adults. 

However, even though the public is able to use this space in a recreational way, a plaque to remember the women who contributed to the liberation of France remain on one of the sentry boxes at the main entrance. In times when your life is constantly threated by the tyranny of a ferocious government, it is extremely difficult to stand up for your beliefs. Whether it is the need for self-conservation or the need to protect those you love, in times like these most people become petrified by the uncertainty of their future if they do decide to fight. Although we would love to imitate our favorite heroes in history or fiction, making that decision means making peace with giving up your life for the cause. This is something not everyone can do. It is simply not natural to do so. Although we currently gather in groups, whether it is in our households or our cities, there is still within us the innate need to survive even at the expense of the group. Although, this is not something we like to hear or even think about most of us are quite selfish when it comes to saving our lives and those of the people, we share genetic information with. No, it is not evil, it is only natural. Self-preservation is a concept that ensures our species survives and it is really put to the test in situations like the ones the resistance fighters were facing during World War II. Given how difficult and unnatural it is to decide to devote one’s life for the well-being of others at a great deal of personal risk, the great sacrifice of these women along with every resistance fighter made is one to be remembered. Their selflessness and need for justice are the reason why today France is a free country. 

Stop 9: Alexandre Dumas

Photos taken at "Jardins Damia" by Melany Gomez

Alexandre Dumas is located on the border of arrondissements 11 and 12 and it was established in 1903. It is named after the French author Alexandre Dumas (Wikipedia Contributors, 2018). Near this entrance, you can find the Jardin Damia which was named after Marie-Louise Damien. This is a small green space within the Sainte-Marguerite district. Once inside you are completely submerged in the nature around you and can find serenity in spending time relaxing, working out or engaging with your family (“Jardin Damia,” 2019). With a playground inside this park, many families with children come to the park and enjoy some quality time together. Having a community in which its individuals have the time and place to cherish their children and spend time with them is definitely an advantage. Although the families of France overall receive lower incomes when compared to families in the United States, they also report a happier life. One of the main factors for this is that compared to the United States in France they have about 7 weeks of paid vacations, whereas in the United States this is not commonly seen (Krugman, 2005). Children need and deserve their parent’s attention and guidance. When parents are pressed for time and hire nannies to care for them for long periods of times, they lose the so valuable connection between a parent and a child over time and this can affect the development of the child. Other countries around the world should realize the importance of spending time in family and provide the parents with the necessary time.

Stop 10: Nation

Photos taken at "Square de la place de la Nation" by Melany Gomez

The Nation station is the last stop of line 2 towards the east. It is named after its location Place de la Nation (Wikipedia Contributors, 2018)Immediately after stepping outside of this station a circular park in the middle of a rotunda becomes visible. This park in itself contains a lot of history dating back to Louis XIV. Originally it was called Place du Trône in honor of a throne that was once placed in this park in order to welcome Louis XIV and Maria Teresa of Spain into France. Originally at its center, a statue of Louis XIV was to be built however this project never saw its culmination and centuries after his death, (19thcentury) Jules Dalou creates the statue The Triumph of the Republic to be placed at the center of this rotunda and that is the statue we see today. This statue was built to celebrate the 100thyear anniversary of the French revolution. The square itself served as a very active place for the revolution, renamed Place du Trône-Renversé,where many executions took place via the guillotine (“The Place de la Nation,” 2019). 

Although Revolutions are bloody, sometimes it is preferable to shed blood for one’s own country than to live centuries under a tyranny. Not every nation in the world has the courage to do this, however, especially not after years of failed revolutions. When learning about the French Revolution, one cannot help but  feel inspired, to have the urge of spreading the news that it is possible to break free from you oppressors. Nevertheless, in a country like Cuba, where the government has so much power over its people. Where arms and ammunition are extremely difficult to come by and where a Revolution has already devastated the country, it is difficult and unlikely to see them rise up. A crucial part of revolutions, however, is not only the bloodshed and the violence, but also the leadership of a strong individual like Robespierre or Jose Marti who can unite the people and show them the way towards salvation. Revolutions bring with them change, the promise of a new life but also destruction and sacrifice. Of course, that’s not to say they not often needed, and good. 

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