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Evening in Paris
March 29, 2015, 16:06, views: 1995
Paris is the capital and most populous city of France. Situated on the Seine River, in the north of the country, it is in the centre of the Île-de-France region, also known as the région parisienne, “Paris region”. The City of Paris has an area of 105.4 km2, and as of January 2013, a population of 2,273,305 people. With an estimated 10,843,285 inhabitants as of 2015, Paris’s urban area is the most populous in the European Union, and third most populous in Europe, behind Moscow and Istanbul.
Paris was founded in the 3rd century BC by a Celtic people called the Parisii, who gave the city its name. By the 12th century, Paris was the largest city in the western world, a prosperous trading centre, and the home of the University of Paris, one of the first in Europe. In the 18th century, it was the centre stage for the French Revolution, and became an important centre of finance, commerce, fashion, science, and the arts, a position it still retains today.
The Paris Region has a GDP of €612 billion (US$760 billion) in 2012, ranking it as one of the wealthiest five regions in Europe; it is the banking and financial centre of France, and contains the headquarters of 30 companies in the Fortune Global 500. In 2013 the City of Paris received 29.3 million visitors, making it one of the world’s top tourist destinations.
Paris is the home of the most-visited art museums in the world, the Louvre, as well as the Musée d’Orsay, noted for its collection of French Impressionist art, and the Musée National d’Art Moderne, a museum of modern and contemporary art. The notable architectural landmarks of Paris include the Notre Dame Cathedral (12th century); Sainte-Chapelle (13th century); the Eiffel Tower (1889); and the Basilica of Sacré-Cœur on Montmartre (1914).
Paris is known for its fashion designers and the twice-yearly Paris Fashion Week, and for its haute cuisine, and three-star restaurants. Most of France’s major universities and Grandes écoles are located in Paris, as are France’s major newspapers, including Le Monde, Le Figaro, and Libération.
Paris is home to the association football club Paris Saint-Germain F.C. and the rugby union club Stade Français. The 80,000-seat Stade de France, built for the 1998 FIFA World Cup, is located in Saint-Denis. Paris hosts the annual French Open Grand Slam tennis tournament on the red clay of Roland Garros. Paris played host to the 1900 and 1924 Summer Olympics, the 1938 and 1998 FIFA World Cups, and the 2007 Rugby World Cup.
The city is a major rail, highway, and air-transport hub, served by the two international airports Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Paris-Orly. Opened in 1900, the city’s subway system, the Paris Métro, serves 9 million passengers daily. Paris is the hub of the national road network, and is surrounded by three orbital roads: the Périphérique, the A86 motorway, and the Francilienne motorway in the outer suburbs.
Urbanism and architecture
Most French rulers since the Middle Ages made a point of leaving their mark on a city that, contrary to many other of the world’s capitals, has never been destroyed by catastrophe or war. In modernising its infrastructure through the centuries, Paris has preserved even its earliest history in its street map. At its origin, before the Middle Ages, the city was composed around several islands and sandbanks in a bend of the Seine; of those, two remain today: the île Saint-Louis, the île de la Cité; a third one is the 1827 artificially created île aux Cygnes. Modern Paris owes much to its late 19th century Second Empire remodelling by the Baron Haussmann: many of modern Paris’ busiest streets, avenues and boulevards today are a result of that city renovation. Paris also owes its style to its aligned street-fronts, building-unique upper-level stone ornamentation, aligned top-floor balconies, and its tree-lined boulevards. The high residential population of its city centre makes it much different from most other western global cities.
Paris’ urbanism laws have been under strict control since the early 17th century, particularly where street-front alignment, building height and building distribution is concerned. In recent developments, a 1974-2010 building height limitation of 37 metres (121 ft) was raised to 50 m (160 ft) in central areas and 180 metres (590 ft) in some of Paris’ peripheral quarters, yet for some of the city’s more central quarters, even older building-height laws still remain in effect. The 210 metres (690 ft) Montparnasse tower was both Paris and France’s tallest building until 1973, but this record has been held by the La Défense quarter Tour First tower in Courbevoie since its 2011 construction. Skyscrapers are appearing in many of Paris’ closest suburbs, particularly in La Défense, where there are projects to build towers between 265 metres (869 ft) and 323 metres (1,060 ft) high.
Parisian examples of European architecture date back more than a millennium; including the Romanesque church of the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés (1014-1163); the early Gothic Architecture of the Basilica of Saint-Denis (1144), the Notre Dame Cathedral (1163-1345), the Flamboyant Gothic of Saint Chapelle (1239-1248), the Baroque churches of Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis (1627-1641) and Les Invalides (1670-1708). The 19th century produced the neoclassical church of La Madeleine (1808-1842); the Palais Garnier Opera House (1875); the neo-Byzantine Basilica of Sacré-Cœur (1875-1919), and the exuberant Belle Époque modernism of the Eiffel Tower (1889). Striking examples of 20th century architecture include the Centre Georges Pompidou by Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano (1977), and the Louvre Pyramid by I.M. Pei (1989). Contemporary architecture includes the Musée du Quai Branly by Jean Nouvel (2006) and the new contemporary art museum of the Louis Vuitton Foundation by Frank Gehry (2014).
Paris is the eighth most expensive city in the world for luxury housing: €12,105 per square metre (€1,124.6/sq ft) in 2007 (with London at the most expensive with €36,800 per square metre (€3,420/sq ft)). According to a 2012 study for the La Tribune newspaper, the most expensive street is the quai des Orfèvres in the 6th arrondissement, with an average price of €20,665 per square metre (€1,919.8/sq ft), against €3,900 per square metre (€360/sq ft) for the 18th arrondissement rue Pajol.
The total number of residences in the city of Paris in 2011 was 1,356,074, up from a former high of 1,334,815 in 2006. Among these, 1,165,541 (85.9 percent) were main residences, 91,835 (6.8 percent) were secondary residences, and the remaining 7.3 percent were empty (down from 9.2 percent in 2006).
Paris urban tissue began to fill and overflow its 1860 limits from around the 1920s, and because of its density, it has seen few modern constructions since then. Sixty-two percent of its buildings date from 1949 and before, 20 percent were built between 1949 and 1974, and only 18 percent of the buildings remaining were built after that date.
Two-thirds of Paris’ 1.3 million residences are studio and two-room apartments. Paris averages 1.9 people per residence, a number that has remained constant since the 1980s, but it is much less than Île-de-France’s 2.33 person-per-residence average. Only 33 percent of principal-residence Parisians own their habitation (against 47 percent for the entire Île-de-France): the major part of the city’s population is a rent-paying one.
Social housing represents a little more than 17 percent of the city’s total residences, but these are rather unevenly distributed throughout the capital: the vast majority of these are concentrated in a crescent formed by Paris’ south-western to northern periphery arrondissements.
In 2012 the Paris agglomeration (urban area) counted 28,800 people without a fixed residence, an increase of 84 percent since 2001; it represents 43 percent of the homeless in all of France. Forty-one percent were women, and 29 percent were accompanied by children. Fifty-six percent of the homeless were born outside of France, the largest number coming from Africa and Eastern Europe. The city of Paris has sixty homeless shelters, called Centres d’hébergement et de réinsertion sociale or CHRS, which are funded by the city and operated by private charities and associations.
Paris and its suburbs
Aside from the 20th century addition of the Bois de Boulogne, Bois de Vincennes and Paris heliport, Paris’ administrative limits have remained unchanged since 1860. The Seine département had been governing Paris and its suburbs since its creation in 1790, but the rising suburban population had made it difficult to govern as a unique entity. This problem was ‘resolved’ when its parent “District de la région parisienne” (Paris region) was reorganised into several new departments from 1968: Paris became a department in itself, and the administration of its suburbs was divided between the three departments surrounding it. The Paris region was renamed “Île-de-France” in 1977, but the “Paris region” name is still commonly used today.
Paris’ disconnect with its suburbs, its lack of suburban transportation in particular, became all too apparent with the Paris agglomeration’s growth. Paul Delouvrier promised to resolve the Paris-suburbs mésentente when he became head of the Paris region in 1961: two of his most ambitious projects for the Region were the construction of five suburban villes nouvelles (“new cities”) and the RER commuter train network. Many other suburban residential districts (grands ensembles) were built between the 1960s and 1970s to provide a low-cost solution for a rapidly expanding population: these districts were socially mixed at first, but few residents actually owned their homes (the growing economy made these accessible to the middle classes only from the 1970s). Their poor construction quality and their haphazard insertion into existing urban growth contributed to their desertion by those able to move elsewhere and their repopulation by those with more limited possibilities.
These areas, quartiers sensibles (“sensitive quarters”), are in northern and eastern Paris, namely around its Goutte d’Or and Belleville neighbourhoods. To the north of the city they are grouped mainly in the Seine-Saint-Denis department, and to a lesser extreme to the east in the Val-d’Oise department. Other difficult areas are located in the Seine valley, in Évry et Corbeil-Essonnes (Essonne), in Mureaux, Mantes-la-Jolie (Yvelines), and scattered among social housing districts created by Delouvrier’s 1961 “ville nouvelle” political initiative.
The Paris agglomeration’s urban sociology is basically that of 19th century Paris: its fortuned classes are situated in its west and south-west, and its middle-to-lower classes are in its north and east. The remaining areas are mostly middle-class citizenry dotted with islands of fortuned populations located there due to reasons of historical importance, namely Saint-Maur-des-Fossés to the east and Enghien-les-Bains to the north of Paris.
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Stephen Smith, March 16, 2015, 10:13
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