The design for the revamp of Paris' Gare du Nord station has been declared "indecent" and "monstrous" by leading architects.
Renovations on Gare du Nord began in July last year with plans to improve passenger flow in the crowded 19th century building and turn it into a vast "culture and leisure experience" ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics. Gare du Nord is Europe's busiest train station, serving about 700,000 passengers a day (a number that's expected to rise 900,000 when the games get underway). But it's also one of Europe's most-criticised stations, often accused of being dark, dirty, uncomfortable, and dysfunctional.
The revamp hopes to fix these problems by tripling the size of the station and offering more services to commuters, like a post office, a library, co-working spaces, and a green terrace. There are also plans to introduce a shopping mall and a rooftop running track. On paper, it sounds interesting. Green spaces seem necessary, especially in clogged urban spaces, we always need libraries, and a rooftop running track, while totally unnecessary, seems like a pretty cool idea. Dig a little deeper though and it appears that the new station layout may not offer the most user-friendly experience. Or so say a group of leading architects who criticised the plans in an open letter to Le Monde.
Signatories of the letter included French architects Jean Nouvel and Roland Castro, as well as historians and planning experts, who asked for the plans to be revised. The letter denounced the design as "absurd," saying that the plan to fill the space with shops, cafes and restaurants, in an area of Paris where there are plenty of them, is a "serious urban error" and suggested the shopping centre could kill smaller trade in the region. It also argued that the new layout will add extra distance and time to passengers' journeys by forcing them to take "indecent" and "unnecessarily complicated routes" through a giant shopping centre before they reach the train platform.
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SNCF, the state railway operator overseeing the plans, said the "transformation is primarily for the daily commuters, the millions of users of the R.E.R. and the suburban trains" in an op-ed published in Le Monde. General manager, Claude Solard, said that the new station will be "larger, more accessible, more pleasant and will offer more services and businesses," and will aim to be zero-waste.