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garden tales from a Brit at home and abroad

A car wreck of a park?

Parc André Citroën in the southwest of Paris was created just twenty years ago, on the site of an old car factory. The only park in the capital with frontage on the river Seine, it is famous for its bold modern design and confident use of water and sculpted plants. Locals picnic en masse on the central lawn at weekends and hundreds of kids cool down in its 120 dancing water jets. Well-maintained small gardens and a popular tethered balloon add to its appeal.

Despite its appeal, much of the park has long needed better maintenance. Three years ago I wrote this post about its dilapidated condition and expressed a hope that, at last, the problems were being addressed. Sadly a return visit this July suggested that my optimism was misplaced.

As I reported at the time for Historic Gardens Review, the park’s central water features remain in a deplorable state. The shallow moat that surrounds the main lawn, which was empty for so long, has now been refilled with water, but contains an astonishing amount of blanket weed and algae.

Citroen 11Citroen 02
Almost all the other water features remain empty and cordoned off, including the 250m long elevated canal to the west, the waterfalls at the river end of the park, and the series of six rills and cascades that join the individual gardens to the main lawn.

Citroen 03 Citroen 05 Citroen 09 Citroen 10The mayor’s office in Paris reported to me that the six rills were actively under repair (to prevent serious leaks) but would not be drawn on any of the other problems. I suspect that, with its mass of elaborate water features, the park may simply be too expensive to conserve in its original state.

Better news seems to be emerging from the much trumpeted €3.9m planned extension to the park. Plans announced early in 2012 included innovative play areas, refreshment stalls, the park’s first toilets, and substantial new plantings of clipped hawthorn and hornbeam, plus a mass of Judas trees. The extension was due to open this summer. The space was still a building site when I visited – fenced off, weeds establishing themselves on the piles of earth, with no obvious work underway and no explanation of the reasons for the delay.

Citroen 12 Citroen 13But one of the main contractors, COTEG, has just wryly reported that the extension is likely to be finished by the end of next month because the park is now part of “a political context that demands deadlines” – with the municipal elections taking place in March 2014, the local mayor presumably wants parc André Citroën as a showcase of urban developments in his arrondissement. C’est un mal pour un bien…

6 comments on “A car wreck of a park?

  1. sueturner31
    November 12, 2013


  2. little blog of happy
    November 12, 2013

    On a garden tour of France in 2011, this was the only garden that was a disappointment. It must have been beautiful in its’ hey day, but when I saw it, it was just sad. Would love to know that it was being cared for once again.

  3. Judith Tankard
    November 13, 2013

    Thanks so much for the update. I visited the park in May 2012 and was somewhat surprised by the lack of maintenance. The situation seems to have grown worse. I hope the situation turns around.

  4. Of Gardens
    November 21, 2013

    I agree with your assesment. When I was there in June 2012 I observed rather shabby conditions. Hopefully with the extension more maintenance will take place.

  5. maggie
    December 2, 2013

    I agree as well; my first visit was a disappointment. I wasn’t expecting so many empty planting beds and so much broken hardscape.
    And my second was as well, since I couldn’t find the helpful poster from my previous visit that identified what animals had made the crottes that were found around the park.

  6. Florian
    June 26, 2014

    Being a neighbour of the park, thanks and bravo for your coverage, testimony and regret of the current state of the park… It seems to me that so many of these modern objects, be it buildings or park, totally lack the vision of the maintenance… and that there is a vicious hypocrisy of letting the project go… while knowing it will be disfigured by the lack of maintenance. That drives to empty basins and fountains, with a lot of degradation and ugly protections… what the point ? Architects don’t take that into account and don’t care, and politicians act as if they don’t know and choose projects on nice virtual plans… How can we get rid of that ?

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This entry was posted on November 12, 2013 by in Modern design, Paris, Parks and tagged , , .

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