Under Paris

February 10, 2014 § 4 Comments

I am fascinated by urban undergrounds, by métro and subway systems, their phantom stops, abandoned tunnels, and the like.  A recent episode of Sherlock found Sherlock and Watson defusing a tube car underneath Parliament, in an abandoned station, that was set to carry out Guy Fawkes’ dream.  It was my favourite Sherlock episode of this series.  I’ve touched on this subject before on this blog in relation to London.  And I was fascinated by Peter Ackroyd’s book, London Under.  One of my favourite blogs is Andrew Emond’s Under Montreal, where I can and have spent hours reading about the underground of my hometown and Emond’s images.

To me, these undergrounds suggest an alternative city, one that terrifies and fascinates us at the same time.  I have been in abandoned tunnels in Montréal, beneath the Lachine Canal.  It was a hair-raising experience.  There was dripping water from the canal above, rats the size of cats, and this fascinating urban archaeology.  As well as the feeling that the roof might cave in on us at any moment.  Any major city with an underground subway has these tunnels, tracks.  Many have abandoned stations, or stations that were built and never opened.

Entrance to station Arsenal, Paris

Entrance to station Arsenal, Paris

Last week, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, a centre-right candidate for Mayor of Paris, better known by her initials, NKM, proposed to “rescue” the abandoned métro stations of Paris.  She released pictures of architects’ mockups of the old Arsenal station near the Bastille.  Arsenal was closed in 1939, at the outbreak of the Second World War and has remained closed since.  In her imagined re-claiming of métro Arsenal, it can be anything from a nightclub to a swimming pool to a restaurant.

Interestingly, early on in Devimco’s plans to redevelop Griffintown, the old Wellington Tunnel under the canal was re-imagined as a restaurant.  That went nowhere, in large part because the tunnel isn’t structurally sound.

NKM, of course, has no idea how to pay for this, nor is she likely to win the election; she’s badly trailing the Socialist candidate, Anne Hidalgo.

But it opens up the question of the 16 abandoned métro stations in Paris.  Some have been used for films and other such events.


§ 4 Responses to Under Paris

  • Brian Bixby says:

    Seattle’s underground came from raising the street level. I heard about it from a TV show in the early 1970s. Alas, the version on the TV show was more impressive than the real thing.

    • Sorry, been sick. I didn’t even know Seattle had an underground. Vancouver has a small one, that originally centred around a train tunnel that went underneath the downtown core of the city, which is now part of the Skytrain. And then there’s the shopping malls downtown, which are partly subterranean. What always alarmed me about undergrounds on the West Coast was earthquakes. Every time I was underground in Vancouver, I thought about it. Same with the tunnel under the Fraser River to Richmond. Not where you want to be when the big one comes.

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