Paris mayoral candidate Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet recently announced her plan to turn 11 of Paris’ 16 Métro “ghost stations” into public spaces. To this end, the candidate enlisted the help of young architect Manal Rachdi and urban planner Nicolas Laisné to develop several potential reuse scenarios.
With her ambitious project, visualized in a series of futuristic photographs, she hopes to drum up public interest and transform these abandoned stops into a range of novel spaces including a sleek swimming pool, a theater and concert hall, a night club, an art gallery, and even a refectory-style restaurant.
All of the stations have one thing in common: They were either closed almost a century ago or never opened in the first place. Some temporarily served as backdrops for advertising campaigns or films, like the former Porte-des-Lilas station, which closed in 1935, but set the scene for international box-office hit Amélie. Meanwhile, a section of the now-abandoned Saint-Martin station, closed in 1939, now serves as a homeless shelter during the winter months. Or take Porte Molitor, originally constructed to link the metro lines 9 and 10 and to service southwest Paris’ football stadium Parc des Princes, which got a new lease of life as a train garage after proving too complicated in operation. Near La Bastille, the Arsenal station – closed on the eve of the Second World War – also awaits rejuvenation. Traversing Paris, trains still rush through some of these ghost stations, so keep your eyes peeled for a brief glimpse of their abandoned and somewhat spooky platforms in the dark.
For the one-time government minister and mayoral candidate, however, the project turned out to be somewhat controversial. During Nicolas Sarkozy’s unsuccessful 2012 re-election campaign, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet was derided for not knowing the correct price of a subway ticket (her guess of €4.00 was almost twice the actual €1.70 fare) and later called out of touch for describing one of the network’s busiest – and some say dirtiest – lines as “a place of charm.” Maybe she was thinking ahead?
Yet the stunning photographs and projections have failed to boost support for Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, currently trailing behind fellow candidate Anne Hidalgo in the polls. While many praise the project’s creative and out-of-the-box appeal, others criticize its unrealistic nature, citing terrible acoustics, humidity, potential tax raises, and expensive maintenance among the many potential pitfalls.
So, while it remains to be seen whether this ambitious underground project will ever see the light of day, one thing is for certain: If the candidate’s campaign is successful, Parisians will be able to voice their own ideas online, followed by a public vote to determine a popular favorite. Yet no matter the outcome, this reclamation of forgotten stations remains a fascinating example of urban renewal and reclamation of public space – and certainly a great inspiration for other cities with similar topographies.
Text: Franca Rainer
All photos, incl. the header image: Oxo architects + Laisné Architecte