PARIS (Reuters) - Futuristic glass towers, monorails high above the traffic or an artificial island in the Seine are among 10 projects that could transform Paris in the decades ahead.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy is due to outline on Wednesday what is billed as one of the biggest redevelopments of the French capital since Baron Haussmann carved grand boulevards out of the city in the 19th century.
The projects included in an initial selection go on display in the Cite de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine, the Paris architectural museum where Sarkozy first called for a “bold” design overhaul in September 2007.
Britain’s Richard Rogers, who designed the 1970s landmark Pompidou Center, Antoine Grumbach, a French architect who wants to link Paris with Le Havre on the Atlantic coast, or Roland Castro, who envisions a new business center built on an artificial island in the Seine have presented designs.
The projects could enable Sarkozy to leave Paris with the kind of “Grands Travaux” (Major Projects) beloved of past presidents such as Francois Mitterrand, patron of monuments such as the new National Library or the glass pyramid at the Louvre.
But pressing economic, environmental and demographic constraints facing Paris and the surrounding Isle de France region are driving the plans.
Confined within the “peripherique” ringroad, the city of Paris has just over 2 million inhabitants, compared with about 7.5 million in Greater London, and pressure to merge with the neighboring suburban areas has grown steadily.
Paris’s harmonious appearance, protected by rigid limits on buildings above a certain height, has ensured its status as one of the world’s most frequently visited and photographed cities but also threatened to turn it into a living museum.
Some 12 million people live in the Ile de France region, which accounts for about 30 percent of French gross domestic product but disjointed transport links and unevenly distributed resources have created growing problems.
The redevelopment is seen as a chance to create a greener city with local power generation and recycling stations buried beneath parkland and tight-knit tram and light rail networks.
Among the plans on the table is an unmanned underground rail link between future business centers and central train stations and airports and a new metro network binding what is now the city of Paris with the suburbs by 2020.
But as well as the cost, estimated at some 20 billion euros ($26.03 billion), the project would require long-standing political rivalries between national, city and regional authorities to be overcome, a task which has defeated previous redevelopment efforts.
Writing by James Mackenzie