I wonder if you saw the story earlier this year about the Parisian mayoral candidate, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, who during her campaign joined forces with two architects to conjure and design inventive re-use proposals for the city’s abandoned metro stations?
The Parisian metro is the sixth largest in the world and possibly one of the most storied. You’ve seen it in movies, probably heard tourists’ tales about it, and if fortunate, you’ve perhaps experienced it for yourself. I remember it well from my time living in Paris, mostly riding through the depths of its mightily efficient system to university classes on the famed Left Bank and also to the Bibliotheque Nationale de France (the National Library of France) in the 13th Arrondissement, where I could be found, head buried in microfiche, reading about obscure Latin American educational approaches. Ah, the flights of academic fancy that accompany tertiary education! Anyway, I quite liked the metro (although was somewhat partial to the Parisian bus system for the wonderful opportunity to soak in all the sights above ground) and I came to look forward to the many idiosyncrasies of the underground system, one of which was the abandoned stations. There are many of them in Paris, largely closed during World War II and never reopened, and they’ve become ghost stations, haunting the underground with their presence. I always found it curious to pass through these stations, almost looked forward to it because of the mystery they held; it was just one of those beautiful things about Paris, one of the many strange, hidden oddities.
Anyway, these ghost stations have been re-imagined by the architectural duo as spaces for Parisian daily life: eating, drinking, socializing, exercising. In a way, it’s like the high-line in NY but underground and taken to a whole new level. And I’m intrigued.
Care to swim in an incredibly contemporary underground public pool?
Care to dance the night away in a nightclub located in an abandoned metro station?
Or laze around in your local underground park?
This is all conceptual, rather impractical, and not all that likely to happen anytime soon. Indeed, the cynic in me believes this may simply have been a very clever publicity stunt intended to attract the votes of aesthetes and urbanites. But just for a second, imagine if there really was a whole network of these re-purposed spaces across the city, and you could stop in at your local ghost station for a cup of coffee and a pastry or explore the city at-large by stopping in at each station for a figurative taste of what each had to offer? She has my vote.