Thursday, July 24, 2008

Paris to allow high-rise buildings

The beautiful city of Paris is about to unleash architectural hell, by lifting a ban on buildings taller than 37 meters in the city center.

If you've ever been to Paris, or seen pictures of it, you will no doubt notice that the city itself is generally defined by neighborhoods of gorgeous stone buildings and green spaces, with the skyscrapers limited to a separate business district called La Defense.

Pictures of Paris:

See how the Eiffel Tower soars above the buildings? How can Paris think about obscuring it with skyscrapers?

I lived outside of Paris for five years, and I studied abroad in Paris for a semester. I feel a special connection with that city, not in the least because of its uniqueness. It is not a city of metal and steel, like New York. It is a city of ancient streets and beautiful architecture, of winding alleys and wrought iron, of cute cafes and busy brasseries, a city that eternally has a baguette under one arm and a cigarette in the other hand, a city of philosophy and history, of romance, and love, and life. Hyperbole? Bad metaphor? Trite? Sure. But it's all true.

I don't want Paris to become just another big city, with huge skyscrapers dwarfing its monuments and its museums and diluting its unique ambiance. And I don't understand how a socialist mayor can think that this is a good idea, especially when 2/3 of Parisians strongly oppose the idea.