Hotel de Ville (City Hall)

Place de Greve
Paris, France

Contributed by Project for Public Spaces

A plaza that has remained the center of Parisian government since the fourteenth century is the civic square of Paris.

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Why It Works

The plaza has a strong connection and history as an important social, cultural and community place that woke up this extraordinary city. Every visit is met with a surprise as to the extent of what is available on the plaza. In the winter there is a skating rink, which is free (visitors pay for skate rental.) Other visits have involved environmental or service fairs, a merry-go-round, and recently, a putting green and sports event area for children.

What Makes Hotel de Ville (City Hall) a Great Place?

Centrally located along the Seine and Rue de Rivoli, next to a department store, within walking distance of many important Paris Neighborhoods (Latin Quarter, etc.) Its activities are easily visible from many directions.

It is a large, flexible open space in front of a grand, signature Renaissance-influenced building. It is awesome and handsome, with many interesting details.

This space showcases Paris. One expects a surprise every time one visits. It is also in the heart of a lively shopping area and near other cultural and tourist destinations.

It is usually full of families, kids, and seniors; an important place where tourists, locals, and all types of people gather.

History & Background

A swampy area of the Seine known as La Place de Greve, this site has held a lofty spot in the history of Paris since the fourteenth century. The site of public uprisings (faire la greve = to strike), political rallies, executions and innumerable festivals and celebrations. Originally, a meeting place of the Water Merchants, the Hotel De Ville or Town Hall, was built on the square in 1357.

Many of Paris' most dramatic events took place in the Place de Greve. This is where Ravaillac, Henri IV's murderer, was hung, drawn and quartered, and heretics were burned at the stake; where speeches were given, noblemen decapitated and crowds and revolutions gathered.

In 1533, François I endowed the city with a Hôtel de Ville which would be worthy of the Parisians. Two architects, Dominique de Cortone, an Italian, Pierre Chambiges, French, designed a building in the spirit of the Renaissance. Work began in 1533 and was not finished until 1628 during the reign of Louis XIII. During the following two centuries no charges were made to the edifice.

This building was burned to the ground during the revolt of the Paris Commune in 1871, but was reconstructed according to original plans in 1882.

The site is now the center of cultural or sport manifestations like the giant Christmas crib, the winter ice-skating rink, and the giant TV screen that was set up for the world soccer games in 1998.

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