Paris to become a "laboratory" for urban design

Fri Jun 10, 2011 4:20pm EDT
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By Elizabeth Pineau

PARIS (Reuters) - Paris, the city that has inspired legions of artists and creative thinkers over the centuries is looking to the future -- searching for urban design projects at the forefront of innovation and utility.

From urban mushroom gardens to Wifi-enabled hammocks on the Champs-Elysees, 40 temporary projects will be installed from July to December throughout the French capital and its residents asked to express opinions on their long-term suitability.

"The idea is to make the city a 'living lab', an experimental laboratory," said Jean-Louis Missika, the deputy mayor in charge of innovation, research and universities.

"Some projects will have zero utility, while others will be enormously popular, I'm sure."

That may be the case with the parking detectors that can guide hard-pressed Parisian drivers to nearby empty parking spaces, or a streetside booth where people can record video messages and send them to friends or loved ones.

Other projects are more whimsical, from the "U-Farm" mushroom grower that relies on coffee grounds or the mobile aqua garden that can raise both vegetables and fish.

The city of Paris has subsidized about half of the design projects to the tune of up to 30,000 euros ($43,820).

Tourist sites have not been ignored in the attempt to modernize the city. A multimedia terminal will help guide visitors through the famous Montparnasse cemetery, final resting place for literary greats like Charles Baudelaire, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre.   Continued...

<p>A view of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, July 5, 2010. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer</p>