Sunday 15 August 2010

The Poterne des Peupliers

The Poterne des Peupliers is one of Paris’s psychogeographical hotspots. Historically at once both a barrier and a passageway, this portal into the city was a place that saw traffic stop, water flow and trains pass overhead. The legacy is not clearly visible, but the creations of a collective of street artists today highlight its significance.

On one bridge is a railway line that is no longer used. Underneath, a road sits on top of the Bièvre river which has now been covered over. People are free to enter and leave the city as they please, with only traffic lights providing a brief pause to their progress. It would appear to be just an ordinary entrance point into the city today if it wasn’t for the creations on the walls of the various bridges.

If you arrive at this point via the tramway on the Boulevard Kellermann you will be following the city's 19th century Thiers fortifications. Some of the walls at the Poterne des Peupliers were originally part of those inefficient barriers, and it is on these walls that you can find creations by the inevitable Jerome Mesnager and Mosko et Associés, as well as more modern creations from Janaundjs.

If the creations are here though it is not to mark the old city fortifications, but rather to plot the entrance into the city of the Bievre river. This hidden waterway is celebrated by a collective of artists known as the Lezarts de la Bievre who work together at various points along the ancient routes of the river across the city's left bank.

The river is in the city's sewer pipes today, but this still seems like a highly significant part of the city. The picture below shows how it looked around 150 years ago (railway, river - more of a small stream in reality - passageway, and the peuplier (poplar) trees!), and although much of the surroundings have changed, the lines and axis remain the same. The city no longer has its physical barriers, but this is still a spot where energy flows in and out.


Peter (the other) said...

Was that part of the "ceinture" rail line?

Genie -- Paris and Beyond said...

Adam, this is a fascinating post and I linked through to the other websites. Have you shown it all or is there more street art to be seen? Is it something to put on the "obscure-but-I-want-to-see-it" list?

Thanks for the old view as well.

Adam said...

Peter: Yes it was. I should perhaps have made that clearer, but I was more concerned with things coming in and out of the city rather than circling it!

Genie: There is plenty more street art around. I wouldn't necessarily recommend this spot as a great place to visit, but the area is interesting, particularly the Parc Kellermann alongside where there are other remnents of the Thiers fortifications (subject of a future post!). Another possibility is to start from this point and to try to follow the path of the Bievre river. I'm planning to turn that one into a walking tour soon!

Genie -- Paris and Beyond said...

Thanks, Adam. I look forward to your posts with your photos and great information. Merci!

Philippa said...

The Bievre has long fascinated me, ever since I read "Haussmann or the Distinction" by Paul Lafarge. I love the line: "Nothing lives in the Bievre, although there is much in it that was once alive, and much which, silting the banks downstream, will give rise to life again. nothing lives in the Bievre, as a rule, although many people live by it, and in general find in this circumstance occasion for regret." I hope your planned tour will be available to people who do not have iPhones.

PeterParis said...

Being a bit of a fan of the urban art, this is a place I know of but have not yet posted about. I may make a try this week! (Sorry if I steal your ideas.)

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