L'Arc de Triomphe

Place Charles de Gaulle
Paris, France

Contributed by Project for Public Spaces

A monumental arch set in the midst of an enormous traffic circle.

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Why It Doesn't Work

This is one of the most disappointing destinations in Paris. The monument itself is spectacular, but the traffic circle around it, L'Etoile, is spectacularly bad: a vast asphalt expanse filled with speeding cars entering and exiting as quickly as possible. Getting across this expanse at street level is out of the question, and the idea of going underground simply to visit an island the size of a postage-stamp surrounded by hectic traffic is not much more appetizing.

Almost every boulevard that emanates from this location is dominated by vehicles, and excessive parking adds to the devastation caused by high-volume traffic. Only Avenue Victor Hugo and Avenue Foch have any interest as places to walk or stroll. As you get further away from the point of origin, each boulevard gradually improves.

The space for vehicles in the circle around L'Arc de Triomphe could be halved--it would actually reduce drivers' confusion. If this highly recognizable monument could be transformed into a space that belonged to pedestrians as much as cars, it would set a huge precedent for similar spaces in Paris and other cities.

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