Thank you to all the readers who sent in comments about the Paris Commentary. We are pleased to reprint a sample of the correspondence we received below. If you have something to add, please send us your thoughts. And if there are any Parisian places not included in our commentary that you think deserve recognition in Great Public Spaces or the Hall of Shame, please nominate them on our website.
I have visited Paris regularly for the past 15 years and have spent a good deal of time trying to figure out what makes its parks and public spaces work so well. One of the most important elements seems to be the availability of both sun and shade. In the Jardin des Tuileries, one can sit in the sun but also walk a short distance to a grove of chestnut trees, which create a microclimate some 10-15 degrees cooler. For this reason, people are attracted to water elements as well. There is nothing more delightful than sitting around a cool fountain on a hot day. Watch the fountain at Le Chatelet or Place St. Michel to see the dyanamic. Where in a given park people choose to locate depends on the weather, but parks like La Villette are hot and miserable or cold and grim on many days. In the Tuileries, one can always find a suitable space to relax.
I think the commentary on triangulation is exactly right. In general, people will not go to a space in order to do one thing. They like to serially multi-task in their leisure time. In the Jardin de Luxembourg, one can keep an eye on the kids, admire the plantings, chat with others, snack, and watch the world go by.
One park you didn’t mention is the Quai St. Bernard (I don’t know the park’s proper name) on the Left Bank, which attracts young people by the hundreds at night for dancing and socializing. As someone who takes students to Paris each year, I can tell you it has become a Mecca for the young who enjoy the music and a chance to meet others without spending 5 Euros on a Coca. Who knows when this began, but it is a major event every night all summer.
Another park that is used extensively at night is the Champs de Mars. Entire extended families as well as the young spread out blankets until it is like Jones Beach on the Fourth of July. They bring guitars, dinner, wine, candles, babies, grandma, books, music, and anything else needed for the evening. It is where all of Paris goes to be outdoors on a hot night.
Elizabeth Theiss Smith
Vermilion, South Dakota
I am a landscape architect and member of PPS and do so appreciate all the work that you do. I had to share with you an experience in my family related to Paris.
My 18 year old daughter is graduating from high school and had three weeks to do a senior project of her own creation. Building from a month-long study experience in Paris two summers ago she wanted to return and create a “teen” or “student” guide to paris. She and a friend headed over and spent a brief 12 days exploring their favorite neighborhoods and writing about them. They created a wonderful guide which I am encouraging them to take further.
What amazed me was their approach and seeming intuitive understanding of “place” and what makes a place special. And I promise you I did not give any lectures on the subject. Whatever they did or did not do was of their own creation. The neighborhoods they singled out were small and intimate like Le Marais and when they thought they knew it they tried to get lost and discovered the most amazing hidden gardens and squares. They photographed the way a cafe owner would place plants in pots and a bird bath on the small tree strip outside the shop to create a “place.” Truly I was amazed at what seemed so intuitive to them.
I’m thinking there is an untapped resource in our youth.
Linda Cody, MLA
Ann Arbor, Michigan