Into the Woods
A bold scheme to reclaim the car-choked Bois de Boulogne as a
By Marilyn Clemens, ASLA
Imagine six lanes of traffic severing San Francisco's Golden Gate
Park from the Haight-Ashbury, or Manhattan's Sixth Avenue bisecting
Central Park. Many nineteenth-century urban parks, designed for
horse-drawn carriages, bear such marks of struggle with the automobile.
Perhaps none is more cut off from its city than the Bois de Boulogne
on the west edge of Paris. Crisscrossed by major traffic arteries
linking the city to its southern and western suburbs, scarred by
uncovered sections of the Paris beltway, and segmented by fenced
concessions that block its historic sightlines, the Bois de Boulogne
is far removed from its late-nineteenth-century image as a genteel
public promenade and farther still from its medieval history as
woods where French royalty hunted.
Degradation of the 2,090-acre parkplanned under Baron Georges-Eugène
Haussmann and his collaborator Jean Charles Adolphe Alphandis nothing
new. Nearly a hundred years ago, Marcel Proust lamented the noise
of cars drowning out birdsong. Paris planners, too, have long decried
the automobile's invasion of the bois. In 1978, for instance, the
Atelier Parisien d'Urbanisme, the city's urban planning agency,
urged that the Bois de Boulogne be restored as green spaceits original
purposefor the metropolitan area's 10 million people. But funding
problems and politics intervened, the study gathered dust, the bois
remained unrestoredand prostitutes still solicit customers along
its roadways night and day.
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