Introduction

While we owe much to our experiences in cities all over the world, our time in Paris over the last 25 years has been the most fruitful of any in shaping our views about public spaces. We have spent more time exploring Paris than any other city (the number of days we’ve spent wandering through the city exceeds 100), even more than our hometown, New York. When we compare examples of public spaces in Paris to other cities, we often get the response: “Oh… well that is Paris,” meaning that no other city can compare. Our reply is that Paris is a laboratory for learning about all types of public spaces, both good and bad. Each individual public space, each building, and each street can teach us something important.

Every public space can learn from the example of Luxembourg Gardens, one of the world's best urban parks.

While we are fans of Paris, we are also very disturbed by some of the new projects that have been built and the way vehicles have overtaken large swaths of the city. We think that such a resilient city will self-correct, but its future is precarious.

One of the alarming trends in Paris is the way pedestrians are forced to compete for space with cars, even on the sidewalks.

We present here our observations collected while traveling from place to place. Please comment – we see this as a way to have a dialogue about issues important to the future of Paris, and indeed, to every city. We encourage you to use our Great Public Spaces website to comment on the places that are listed in this commentary, and to nominate places that you think should be listed but aren’t. Send us your own insights into what is happening in Paris’s public and civic sectors: its various plans; what the design community perceives and thinks; what is evolving in the neighborhoods that we can’t yet see.

Fred Kent, President

Kathy Madden, Vice-President

Project for Public Spaces

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