Last year, we looked forward to Christo’s temporary transformation of the Arc de Triomphe (an installation now scheduled for October this year) but now, Paris has announced big plans for the Champs-Élysées, the iconic avenue that leads up to the Arc de Triomphe. The Champs-Élysées will be getting a permanent facelift over the next few years bringing greenery, and hopefully new life, back to the beloved Parisian promenade.
Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo announced that the €250 million (£225 million) project – unveiled in 2019 – has officially been approved following campaigns to rethink the avenue that started in 2018. PCA-Stream, architect Philippe Chiambaretta’s firm, designed the plans for the Champs-Élysées, which will transform the 1.2-mile avenue into “an extraordinary garden.”
In a statement, the committee behind the project stated that over the last three decades, the “legendary” Champs-Élysées had “lost its splendour” and been “progressively abandoned by Parisians.” To reinvigorate the avenue, the design will see that vehicle traffic is reduced by half, streets are transformed into pedestrian areas, and green areas are added to improve air quality.
Originally designed in 1667 by André Le Nôtre, Louis XIV’s gardener, the major avenue was renamed the Champs-Élysées, after the Elysian Fields of mythical Greek afterlife, and extended in 1709. It has since been a hub for French and Parisian life, alike. It’s where Bastille Day is annually recognised and where people have taken to the streets to celebrate iconic moments of all kinds, from the end of Nazi occupation in 1944 to when France won the World Cup in 1998 and 2018.
In recent years, though, the Champs-Élysées has lost a critical part of its nature: the people of France. According to research released at the end of 2019, around 100,000 people circulated along the avenue each day. Of those pedestrians, 72 percent were tourists and 22 percent were people who work in the area. Today, the Champs-Élysées is lined with high-end retailers and expensive cafes, leaving little question as to why fewer locals head to the thoroughfare.
In addition to the dwindling number of Parisians taking to the Champs-Élysées, the street has also developed a pretty severe pollution problem. At the time of the study, eight lanes of traffic throbbed with an average of 3,000 cars every hour, most of which were passing through on the road that loops around Paris.
“It was always designed for the people and shouldn’t just be a luxury avenue,” said Chiambaretta, who noted that “pollution, the place of the car, tourism, and consumerism” were the downfall of the Champs-Élysées, as well as other cities around the world.
Of course, since the pandemic set in, the figures above are a bit different, but if nothing was done, it was anticipated that these numbers would return to be much the same, so Paris is acting now.
The revamp also includes new plans for the Place de la Concorde, which sits at the opposite end of the Champs-Élysées from the Arc de Triomphe. The city has a lot planned, in terms of public works, ahead of hosting the 2024 Olympics, which include changes to the Place de la Concorde. However, due to its extensive nature, the Champs- Élysées project isn’t expected to be finished before 2030.