Churches, cathedrals, monuments, museums, sidewalk cafes, café au lait creperies, pastry shops, crème brulee, and macaroons (yum!)—these are all things that Paris is famous for. Not to be missed though is all the parks, cemeteries, and gardens that are spread throughout the city providing residents and visitors with refreshing oases away from the traffic and hustle and bustle of the city. One enormous and fascinating urban park that is very popular with the locals but not so much with visitors and is well worth a visit is Park de la Villette, a thoroughly modern urban park which was a product of an intense park design completion in the early 1980”s. The winning designer for the new park was Bernard Tschumi, a French but Swiss-born architect. His design for the park was in the new “deconstructivist’ style, a modern design style that has pervaded art, architecture and literature since the late 1970’s worldwide. For those not familiar with the deconstudtivist style, think Frank Gehry. Conventional and traditional design constraints were cast off for the new style of design as a style of “culture rather than nature”.
Park de la Villette, constructed on a huge 125 acre plot in the northeastern corner of the city, formerly the site of slaughterhouses, has a basic layout composed of overlapping systems consisting of POINTS, LINES and SURFACES The POINTS are a series of 26 small and funky building structures called follieys which are all located on the points of a grid which overlays the park. Each folly is a bright red painted structure or pavilion of different shapes that are all derived from a 36 foot cube. Some follies are cafes or event ticket offices, or music halls or just shapes to enjoy visually stimulate or to provide a space to play and climb on. The LINES are composed of three elements: First, a long straight-line walkway covered with a canopy in the shape of a wave cutting north-south through the entire length of the park (the wave-shaped canopy provides a pleasing visual design element while providing shade, much needed on warm sunny days), second, a straight-line water filled canal with paved walkways on both sides forms an east-west axis cutting through the entire width of the park, and third, a series of curvilinear paths called “cinematic walks” meander through gardens, nature areas, and play areas “like a series of cinematic scenes”. Finally, SURFACES are formed by a number of small and large grassy area or lawns which are suitable for picnics, dog Frisbee, concerts, soccer, or just soaking up some sun. For indoor activities there are numerous buildings such a s a covered market space composed of saved slaughterhouse structures, and the huge Museum of Science and Industry (claimed to be the largest in Europe) and the adjacent mirrored spherical IMAX theater which hovers over a water reflecting pool. Also, anchored on the east side of the park is the just completed Paris Philharmonic, an enormous structure which looks somewhat like a huge extraterrestrial mother ship that playfully blends organic design features with modern building technology (I will cover this in a future thread).
As previously mentioned, Park de la Villette is very large and full of fun and fantastic design features and activities. When you visit, allow plenty of time to slowly explore and enjoy the many amenities. All said, it is a pleasurable change of pace and atmosphere from an intense and occasionally visually overwhelming city.