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.

samedi 2 août 2008

Petite Ceinture in the West of Paris, and the threat of interruption to the track elsewhere

The Petite Ceinture is considerably more integrated into its surroundings in the Western arrondisements of Paris (16eme and 17eme), than along any other stretch. Yet this seems to be in a way that has eroded or eliminates the original form and experience of the Petite Ceinture. Although the original path gives form to the buildings that surround the line, much of the track has been taken up, and in many places - between the point just south of Place Tattegrain and Porte Maillot - the trench is covered up or filled in to make space for tennis courts, parks that honor yet more war veterans, parking lots, even restaurants and clubs. Perhaps the wealth, and consequent security of this area of Paris means that the Ceinture - this no-man's-land - is a viable open space; it is easier for the neighborhood to take ownership.
It seems that poverty has preserved the Petite Ceinture elsewhere in Paris. Now, however, the expanding ripples of wealth spreading toward the outside of Paris mean that the Petite Ceinture is threatened elsewhere - and possibly in more disruptive ways than in the West of Paris. The 'Paris Rive Gauche' is a 350+ acre development that stretches along the Seine, south of Gare d'Austerlitz to the Petite Ceinture. Tracks there have been removed, and significant earthworks are evident around and along the line. It is unclear whether there is any intention to restore the tracks; it is hard to imagine a need to do so. As part of the 'Paris Rive Gauche', the neighboring boulevards are being widened. One central artery, Avenue de France, is under construction, and is depicted in many maps as eventually running directly over the Petite Ceinture where a large steel truss bridge now spans the Ivry-sur-Seine rail lines. Further East, near Parc de Bercy, there are plans to develop public housing on the track.