“The area, the border between Paris and the suburbs, has long been sacrificed by public policies”
AT at a time when we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the ring road,…
AT at a time when we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the ring road, the notion of “Greater Paris” (an invention of the interwar period) is becoming more evident over the months, particularly in view of the 2024 Olympic Games, and the gates of the capital are being transformed at high speed. After the Porte de Clichy, which hosted the Paris court, the Porte de La Chapelle will soon see the Condorcet Campus and its students arrive. The Porte de Montreuil should also begin its transformation with the construction of buildings and the development of a vast green space, provided that the project is unanimous.
This late reconquest of the Parisian periphery attempts to repair the abandonment of a territory: the zone, a ring 35 kilometers in circumference which surrounded the capital from 1845.
Never considered as a territory of settlement, but as a territory of services, the border between Paris and the suburbs has long been sacrificed by public policies driven by Parisian disdain vis-à-vis neighboring municipalities. Paradoxically, while Paris did not have a mayor until 1977 and the prefect of the Seine presides over the destinies of the capital and its outskirts, this political configuration did not guarantee urban continuity. This asymmetry between Paris and its suburbs sealed the fate of this territory bordering the City of Light and marked the failure of the extension of Paris, a capital dominated by logics that escape the urban.
A popular refuge
The history of the area begins in the middle of the XIXe century, when fortifications were erected to defend the capital from possible external attacks. The army forbids building at their foot, over a distance of 250 meters (without however destroying the already existing dwellings) – an ea*****t that the owners of the land concerned supported without being compensated. Paris then crossed the decades with a belt of frozen territories.
Given the severe housing crisis, this area non aedificandi nevertheless welcomed up to 40,000 inhabitants, far from being all scavengers or Apaches: popular Paris took refuge there, which could not find accommodation elsewhere, fitting out pavilions or shacks to live with the family and go to work in the capital city. The image of the slum has crushed this real city, born of the arrangement between tenants and against the current of the idea that only a plan could guarantee the urban.
Ineffective during the war of 1870, the fortification was demolished at the end of the First World War. Affordable dwellings were built on its hold, impressive red brick buildings that can be seen today when touring Paris by tram.
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