Sunday, 11 October 2009

Into the Wild

In Paris it often seems as if every part of the city serves a purpose. Each square inch has been measured, divided up and is owned by somebody or some entity. A walk through the city takes you across the face of the mapped, but is it still possible to become an explorer and discover the untrodden, the abandoned, the unclaimed or the unused?

Glimpses of this wilderness do still exist, alongside railway lines, in the corners of hospitals and behind factories on the city limits. In these zones without roads, pavements or street furniture, it is still possible to find a kind of non-activity amongst the hustle and bustle of city life. Buildings that have ceased to serve a purpose and are now waiting for their next life, windows broken and doors hanging from hinges. External walls are crumbling to the ground, now little more than canvases for street artists.

It's always fascinating to walk in these zones, on the edge of the what was and the what it might become. These buildings will eventually be pulled down and live again. Wood may burn, but stone and brick are collected, cut to size and form the building blocks or a new construction. When the Bastille prison was demolished, much of the stone was used to build the Pont de la Concorde. From a solid fortress, the stone became something that eased access.

Is it morally decent though to celebrate the beauty of the abandoned in a city which does not have the necessary infrastructure to house all of its inhabitants? Often these spaces find lodgers, squatters who slip into the gaps between greedy owners and frustrated developers. The purposeless finds a new purpose, and the buildings and wilderness come back to life. Later the squatters will be moved out, the space will be claimed, cleaned up, developed and mapped. The possible will became a bland new reality, where even nature gets landscaped into submission.

7 comments:

Starman said...

I think it's all part of the evolution of the city (any city). The old makes way for the new. The city government of Paris seems to be trying to help the homeless, but it's such a massive undertaking. They may need to re-write their immigration laws.

Gator said...

Great pictures but a few details:

Paris has the infrastructure to lodge all of its inhabitants. I don't have the exact numbers, but around5-10% of apartments in Paris are vacant. Most of them because landlords rather have their apartments unoccupied rather than occupied by poor people.
And I'm not counting all the apartments that have been turned into offices in recent years, because landlords make more profit this way.

Also Starman, homelessness and immigration are two totally unrelated issues.

Adam said...

Hi Gator,

Interesting that you include private residences as infrastructure. I agree that there probably is sufficient space in this sector, but why should private landlords play a social role? I think they would only be encouraged to do this if the state guaranteed the payments of the tenants. Perhaps this could be a solution to the problem.

Gator said...

"Why should private landlords play a social role?"

Because they are part of society too...

The State guaranteeing payments could be an option. Except that it's rarely a question of money as those landlords would rather have no tenant (i.e. no incoming rent) instead of a poor tenant.

A less expensive option for taxpayers and a more humane one would be that the State seizes and confiscates apartments that haven't been rented out for years.

ArtSparker said...

Ruins always fascinate with their sense of holding a past just out of reach, closer than old buildings in continual use.

Starman said...

Gator are you certain they're unrelated?

Gator said...

Of course. Relating the two is not only simplistic, it's a mistake (or worse: racist propaganda).

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