The SNCF, one of the biggest landowners in Paris, spent years in long-drawn-out battles with art collectives that squatted its disused sites. But now it is cooperating with artists on a series of projects. From this summer, five derelict railway sites across the capital are being transformed into creative venues alive with music, debate, and gardens. On 10 June, the first of 14 projects opened. La Station is a platform for emerging local music and also for cooking, gardening, and recycling. It is in a former warehouse, Les Mines in the 18th arrondissement.
While the French government and rail company SNCF continue their dispute with the CGT union over new labour laws, the rail giant’s relations with another Rolex Milgauss Replica Watchesold foe have changed dramatically.
In September more projects are scheduled to open, including Case, on a vacant plot of land in the 10th arrondissement, where shipping containers will be used for art exhibitions and events promoting upcycling and sustainability. And in the suburb of Saint-Denis, Open Cathedral, on an abandoned industrial site, will focus on art, urban farming and events exploring issues such as food wastage.
The projects are not the first to have transformed derelict spaces in the city. The two-year-old La REcyclerie is a bar-restaurant built inside a former railway station on the Petite Ceinture line (abandoned in 1934) that hosts free weekly conferences and workshops about sustainable initiatives.
Close by on rue Ordener, the newly opened Grand Train, a temporary hybrid venue inside an old SNCF depot, hosts a train exhibition, live music and events and comprises several restaurants and a bar. An urban farm and local produce market are also in the pipeline.
In another derelict train station, in the northern 18th, music venue and restaurant Le Hasard Ludique is set to open in early 2017. “We want to involve the community in building this new venue because we want them to feel part of it and that it’s theirs,” says co-founder Vincent Merlet. “Although it will be focused on music, the venue will support all the arts and it will have a bar and restaurant with accessible prices for the local community.”
The rise of local arts venues is part of a broader movement in Paris that recognises the need to tackle environmental and social issues and has seen initiatives across the spectrum from road use (closing the Champs-Élysées to cars once a month); to plans to make the Seine swimmable; to the rise of food co-ops, such as Dada (a Bioco-op franchise) in the 10th arrondissement and La Louve, a community-led supermarket slated for September; and organic and zero-waste restaurants (part of a bid for the 2024 Olympics).
“Things are changing in Paris – even at government level now,” says Aladdin Charni, co-founder of Freegan Pony, a vegan restaurant set up inside a concrete storage space at Porte de la Villette (19th arrondissement). Highlighting the problem of food wastage, unsold produce from Rungis (Paris’s largest wholesale food market) is used by rotating professional chefs to make dishes like ratatouille and stir-fried vegetables. Customers pay what they like.
In 2014, mayor Anne Hidalgo announced a €20m budget participatif inviting Parisians to have their say in projects that would improve life in their city. This year the amount was increased to €100m. Under another mayoral project Reinvent Paris invited architects to submit designs to transform the use of public spaces.
Paris may be short on green spaces, but it is embracing greener ways of living like never before.