Monday, July 20, 2009

Then and Now: le plateau Beaubourg, Paris


Up through the 19th century, the plateau Beaubourg, just a short walk from the market stalls of les Halles, was much like any other large swath of working-class Paris - crowded, dense, and miserable, perhaps just a bit more than average. In 1906, when the city began identifying areas in greatest need of renewal (i.e. demolition) the neighborhood, conspicuously located in the center of the city, became known simply as îlot insalubre n°1.

As far as redevelopment processes go, this one was particularly lengthy. After being delayed by World War I and a slow and painful economic recovery, demolition of "Insalubrious Block Number 1" began in the 1930s, just in time for the Great Depression and another World War. With no plans for new construction on the site, the plateau spent the three decades as an enormous surface parking lot in the heart of Paris, as pictured above.

Construction on the Centre Georges-Pompidou and its plaza began in 1971 and was completed six years later, ironically at a time when we in America were busy replacing our own downtowns with parking lots.

Links (in French):
Îlots insalubres parisiens [Wikipedia]
Découvrir l'Architecture du Centre Pompidou [Centre Pompidou]

Original photo: "PARIS - EMPLACEMENT BEAUBOURG." 1957. Collection Roger-Viollet. Parisienne de Photographie. 17 May 2009.

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