Text description provided by the architects. The need to cover the ring road at the Porte des Lilas answers to a desire expressed by people to finally be able to enjoy a proper quality of life and a friendly urban environment. Basically the population wanted an area where it would be possible to walk, have a garden, play, and find both nature and quietness.
The city of Paris was willing to rebuild an urban link or relationship with neighbourhood cities of Lilas and Pré Saint Gervais, install a bus hub and host a permanent circus. The project is designed to connect the two sides of the ring road and focus on the use for pedestrians and bicycles, without removing car traffic from the périphérique.
The city of Paris has given the SEMAVIP (public and private company) the development mission of the area of the Porte des Lilas. A team of urban planners and landscape architects identified, in collaboration with the neighbourhood associations, a program that would fit for this area. They defined the position and size of the garden, the position of the bus hub and the location of the circus. They also defined the principles of pedestrian routes. A contest between several lanscape architects was launched in 2004. TERRITORIES won the contest in 2005.
The project argues that the nature lives within the city and that it is indeed feasible to further its development at several scales. The capstone of the ring road and the roofs of the buildings around become rain water providers for the garden by filling the center pond. The management of the garden will allow the plants brought by the wind of the ring road to expand and modify its composition. A wide and smooth footpath, that we called la ficelle (the thread), will connect the two sides following a simple and fluid route. Finally, a belvedere (viewpoint) of Paris geography and of the traffic on the ring road will be built. We didn’t want to hide. We wanted to reconciliate.
The project organizes the garden around a large open space in the center, that matches the layout of the device. The vegetation is concentrated on both sides. The central space is dedicated to the lawn and the meadow is left free. The gardens are located along the axis that links the boulevard to the point of view. The pond in the center is the place to harvest rainwater in addition to a large underground tank. Thanks to the pond, the garden can be grown and shown, and develop a living environment. On each side, under the trees, lay the other functions of the garden (children's games, reading room, home of the gardeners...). All these functions are connected by the "Ficelle" that draws many laces between Paris and Les Lilas. The nature in the garden is not decorative. It corresponds to a situation. The project implements the conditions for its development, as varied as possible. Each area of the garden is a new option to drag the plant, even on the walls along the "Ficelle".
The garden is still young. For now people are discovering with delight the opportunity to find an area of peace close to their home. The gardens by themselves are a great experience. It is a real revolution for the residents lifestyle and lifespace. Everyday they go through the garden in order to cross the ring road, even if it lengthens their journey. People will try all sorts of activities, from dawn to dusk.
During the night, the garden is closed. There is only a very soft light. We asked to reduce the amount of light more than usual in Paris, i order to allow the garden, and the people around, to rest, above the "périph'".