The Petite Ceinture is a 17 mile railway circumscribing central Paris. It was built in 1852 to connect the Gares of Paris, became one of the world's first suburban transit systems, and fell into disuse during the 1930's as the Paris Metro succeeded it in efficiency. Today it is abandoned and little known, preserved by indecision over its future. It is a retreat from the city, and a home for underground culture. In places raised up, depressed or underground, it is an exceptional place to look back upon the city of Paris.
This is a rough journal of what I've found on the P.C. as well as during walks around Paris.

vendredi 30 mai 2008

Villette to Buttes Chaumont

(green = walking route, red = P.C. Click on photo for larger image)
This stretch of the Petite Ceinture is mostly above ground, running from the north-east corner of central Paris near Porte de la Villette, heading clockwise and south to the mouth of the tunnel that runs under Buttes Chaumont - the famous 19th c. park designed by Alphond with the intention of celebrating the existing infrastructure and topographical disturbances due to the quarrying of gypsum (plaster of Paris).Started out at the Corentin Cariou Metro stop, just west of, and accross the canal from the Centre des Sciences et Industries in Parc Villette, continuing from where I had left off the day before. Above is a shot of the bridge (rebuilt) running over Ave. Corentin Cariou (coming from Porte de Villette), which becomes Ave. Flandre once you pass under the bridge heading towards Central Paris. (The P.C. divides the two identities of this major artery in and out of the city). The infrastructure, although prominent, is recessive amongst the bustle.
Above is a shot of the viaduct bounding the north side of Place de Argonne. Opposing the viaduct is a new batiment, not yet open, perhaps 15 floors high. Several businesses and a gallery are established under the arches of the viaduct, something that would have been impractical when the rattle of the old train used to pass over them.

Ceinture neighbors. The vitality of the environs is evident. While videoing this, three large balck men, whom you can hear shouting once I pass by the alley playing music, chased after me, stopped me and asked what my problem was. I was sure that was the end of my camera. But once they told them in my shitty french that I was an architecture student, they told me I shouldn't take photos and left me alone. Along that alley, it turned out, is a community of makeshift dwellings, many of which are artist studios. Villette truss bridge.
Above is the bridge spanning Canal de l'Ourcq, which runs through the center of Parc de la Villette and is flanked by a narrow cobbled road, wide bicycle paths and broad promenades. Aside from it's obvious visual appeal, this bridge is exceptional in its relationship to its surroundings. There is a footpath that runs up to and along the bridge, connecting either side of the Canal, and placing the pedestrian inside the infrastructure of the Petite Ceinture. The view is excellent looking down the Canal toward the center of Paris, and out toward Parc de la Villette. This bridge interacts physically and visually with a number of active and well trafficed public spaces. Below is a bike shop next to the bridge that has made a home in the viaduct that resumes on the south side of the bridge. Nestled at the base of the factory and stack looming over this district of the 19eme is an urban garden. It is a reclaimed patch of abandoned property, converted into a garden that is maintained by "les enfants et les familles du quartier". Plots like this are common in this area, and throughout the further reaches of eastern Paris. They are typically sponsored by the city hall (the current mayor is a gay socialist), and often display fantastic examples of graffiti.

Shanty viaduct (below). Makeshift garages, storerooms and shops line the southern side of the viaduct runing along Rue de l'Ourcq. A rough area, populated by 6+ story immobiliers, often built within the last 50 years.
First steps on the Ceinture itself! Gained entrance from the north side of R.A. Danion. Other people were there. Picture below is looking back north at the chimney stack.
Heading south over Ave. Jean Jaures the track is encroached upon by modern apartment towers. In the picture below the apartment complex sitting over the tunnel extended the width of the bridge in order to provide a building site. The old Belleville-Villette station and platform (now totally demolished) sat on the right side of the picture below (in place of the mature trees).
Manin-Crimee overpass. My favorite bridge/overpass in the Petite Ceinture. The southern end of the underpass running under Rue Manin, Rue de Crimee, and the above-mentioned apartment complex marks the north border of Parc Buttes-Chaumont. Substantial columns (5'-6' dia.) aided by the subsequent insertion of scoffold towers support this broad overpass. Vagrants have homes in the notches of the tunnel wall.
Taggers have filled the bottom 6'-7' of the tunnel wall with grafitti. These two taggers are standing in front of their most recently completed tag. They began tagging six months ago.
Beyond the large overpass, within the boundary of Buttes Chaumont the ground raises up, held back by buttressed walls, and absorbs the Petite Ceinture within a 1100m tunnel, the second longest of the Petite Ceinture. It is common to see people walk onto the line from this point.
The submergence of the line, and its position within a park, means that the atmosphere changes from a louder, bustling urban environment, to one that is more peaceful and naturalistic. Compare this video with the previous one.

Climbing out of the P.C. from one of the many holes in the fence, you can climb to the top of the hill, to this restaurant. When the foliage is not thick you can see the line of the Petite Ceinture disappear underneath of the Buttes Chaumont hill. The P.C. is the axis upon which this restaurant was built (part of Alfond's plan to bring attention to the existing infrastructure, which included the P.C.).

1 commentaire:

Phil Beard a dit…

This is wonderful - I love this blog! I was at la Villette last week and photographed the PC bridge. Every time I visit Paris I try to spot a few more sections of this fascinating relic. I've seen it at Buttes-Chaumont, Montsouris, avenue Daumesnil and rue Brancion.
I read that the Vaugirard section from pont du Garigliano to Parc Georges-Brassens is to be converted to public access by 2009. I've also heard that the RATP orbital bus routes that follow the Peripherique take their PC designation from la Petite Ceinture. Can this be true? Anyway, I greatly look forward to further instalments of your explorations!