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Posts Tagged ‘champs elysées’

Recently I wrote an article for Gardens and People on Bernard Lassus and his extraordinary (and never-realised) proposals for the Jardins des Tuileries. I struggle to describe the range and depth of Lassus’s design interests, from suburban cottage gardens and motorway landscapes to historic restoration, reinvented housing estates and contemporary parks. Now in his eighties, Lassus is lecturing in Paris later this month, although sadly I shall be elsewhere.

Lassus

But most weeks I walk through one of his designs, at Rond Point on the Champs-Elysées. Deceptively simple, Lassus’s idea was to construct raised banks of flower beds on the six separate sections of the traffic circle. This allowed motorists to grasp the geometric form of the junction from inside the circle, while also creating a private space for pedestrians on the outside, in the shade of the horse chestnut trees, between the rear of the banks and the surrounding buildings.

He proposed the design in 1981 (almost 30 years ago) and it is still maintained by the City of Paris. At the moment it is planted attractively with grasses and autumnal chrysanthemums on the inner slope, with pansies for the pedestrians on the outside.

Lassus

It is a pleasure to experience Lassus, with his grand schemes and challenging philosophies, somehow encapsulated in this simple reshaping of the terrain at a busy traffic junction.

Lassus

Lassus

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Nature Capitale

This weekend the eight-lane avenue des Champs-Elysées in the middle of Paris has become a “jardin extraordinaire.” To celebrate International Biodiversity Day, over 150,000 trees and other plants from all over France are replacing the cars for a magical 36 hours. Called Nature Capitale, the event is the brain-child of one man, Gad Weil, who wants to give people the chance simply to enjoy nature in the heart of the city.

Millions of people have visited, in temperatures of 30C. Wandering through the crowds yesterday, I was struck by how little information was provided: yes there were a few signs, and some leaflets for those who asked, but there was no preaching on biodiversity, no attempt to make us feel guilty about the disappearance of species. It seemed a joyous, almost spontaneous, celebration of nature. Most visitors simply spent their time examining the plants; the most common question I heard was “C’est quoi, ça?” – what is that?

Fields of carefully-labelled wheat, vines, pumpkins, tomatoes, lavender, mini-forests of oak and fir, all sit incongruously yet splendidly alongside the traffic lights, the McDonalds sign, the Disney Store.

And by 6pm this evening it will all be gone, and the cars will return.

Nature Capitale

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