On the website of the Village Royal, a private, pedestrianised street near the Place de la Madeleine, the location is described as 'prestigeux village au coeur de Paris'. Walking along its polished stone slabs one question comes to mind - how many villages have Dior and Chanel outlets?
Its current aspect stems back to 1992 when the street was completely renovated, with the architect - Jean-Jacques Ory - seeking to recreate the 'esprit d'une rue de village'. Everything was therefore rebuilt 'à l'ancienne', but of course nothing in the Village Royal is authentic, starting with the name. Originally built as a market known as the Marché d'Aguesseau at the end of the 18th century, it was for a long time home to bakers, fishmongers and numerous butchers. It's real name today is the Cité Berryer, an identity it adopted in the 19th century after the market was shut down.
With its potted palms, the 'village' has seemingly been dressed up as some kind of miniature Saint Tropez, but its principal goal is clearly to promote the exclusive brands that occupy the shop units. There is though - temporarily - one exception to this rule. The single tree in the street is currently providing a home to birdhouses designed by 30 different artists, architects and designers.
The installation, called 'Commissariat pour un arbre #1', was put together by French artist Mathieu Mercier. Although more likely to frighten any birds that accidently find themselves in the village than offer them a comfortable home, the creations do at least offer a touch of colour and humour in this most pretentious of environments.