The Parc de la Villette is a park in Paris at the outer edge of the 19th arrondissement, bordering the Boulevard Périphérique, which is a ring road around Paris, and the suburban department of Seine-Saint-Denis. At 55 hectares (of which 35 hectares are green space), these grounds constitute the largest fully-landscaped park in the city of Paris and a green space second in size to only the Père-Lachaise cemetery.
The park was designed by Bernard Tschumi, a French architect of Swiss origin, who built it in 1982 on the site of the huge Parisian abattoirs (slaughterhouses) and the national wholesale meat market, as part of an urban redevelopment project. The slaughterhouses, built in 1867 on the instructions of Napoléon III, had been cleared away and relocated in 1974. Tschumi won a major design competition for the park, and he sought the opinions of the deconstructionist philosopher, Jacques Derrida, in the preparation of his design proposal.
The park houses public facilities devoted to science and music, playgrounds for children, and thirty-five architectural follies. The park is the home to:
Since its completion in 1987, the Parc de la Villette has become a popular attraction for Paris residents and international travelers alike. An estimated 10 million people visit the park each year to take part in an array of cultural activities. With its collection of architectural follies, themed gardens, and open spaces for exploration and activity, the park has created an area that relates to both adults and children.
Designed by Bernard Tschumi, the park is meant to be a place inspired by the post-modernist architectural ideas of deconstructivism. Tschumi’s design was in partial response to the philosophies of Jacques Derrida, acting as an architectural experiment in space, form, and how those relate a person’s ability to recognize and interact. According to Tschumi, the intention of the park was to create space for activity and interaction, rather than adopt the conventional park mantra of ordered relaxation and self-indulgence. The vast expanse of the park allows for visitors to walk about the site with a sense of freedom and opportunity for exploration and discovery. The design of the park is organized into a series of points, lines, and surfaces. These categories of spatial relation and formulation are utilized in Tschumi’s design to act as means of deconstructing the traditional views of how a park is conventionally meant to exist.
The Parc de la Villette boasts a number of activities that engage all people of all ages and cultural backgrounds. The park is a contemporary melting pot of cultural expression where local Paris artists and musicians produce exhibits and performances. On the periphery of the park lies the Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie, the largest science museum in Europe. There is also convention center and an I-MAX theatre. The park itself acts as a connection between these exterior functions. Concerts are scheduled year round at the park, hosting a number of local and mainstream musicians. Dividing the park is the Orucq canal, which has number of boat ride tours that transport visitors around the park and to other sites in Paris. Festivals are common in the park along with artist conventions and shows by performers.
Probably the most iconic pieces of the park, the follies act as architectural representations of deconstruction. Thirty-five follies are placed on a grid and offer a distinct organization to the park. Architecturally, the follies are meant to act as points of reference that helps visitors gain a sense of direction in the park and navigate throughout the space. While the follies are meant to exist in a deconstructive vacuum without historical relation, many have found connections between the steel structures and the previous buildings that were part of the old industrial fabric of the area. Today, the follies remain as cues to organization and direction for park visitors. Recently, some of the follies have been renovated to house restaurants, information centers, and other functions associated with the park’s needs that were not envisioned in the original design.
The Parc de la Villette has a collection of ten themed gardens that attract a large amount of the park’s visitors. Each garden is created with a different representation of architectural deconstructionism and tries to create space through playfully sculptural and clever means. While some of the gardens are minimalist in design, others are clearly constructed with children in mind. Le Jardin du Dragon (The Garden of the Dragon) is home to a large sculptural steel dragon that has an 80 ft slide for children to play on. The gardens range in function; where some gardens are meant for active engagement, others exist to play off of curiosity and investigation or merely allow for relaxation.
Architectural Deconstructivism and the Park
There have been many criticisms of the park since its original completion. To some, the park has little concern with the human scale of park functions and the vast open space seem to challenge the expectation that visitors may have of an urban park. In response, it is important to remember the origins of the park and its roots within the architectural theories of deconstruction. Bernard Tschumi designed the Parc de la Villette with the intention of creating a space that exists in a vacuum, something without historical precedent. The park strives to strip down the signage and conventional representations that have infiltrated architectural design and allows for the existence of a “non-place.” This non-place, envisioned by Tschumi, is the most appropriate example of space and provides a truly honest relationship between the subject and the object. Visitors view and react to the plan, landscaping, and sculptural pieces without the ability to cross-reference them with previous works of historical architecture. The design of the park capitalizes on the innate qualities that are illustrated within architectural deconstructivism. By allowing visitors to experience the architecture of the park within this constructed vacuum, the time, recognitions, and activities that take place in that space begin to acquire a more vivid and authentic nature. The park is not acting as a spectacle; it is not a self-indulgent example of traditional park design such as New York City’s Central Park. The Parc de la Villette acts as a frame for culture and interaction. The park embodies anti-tourism, not allowing visitors to breeze through the site and pick and choose the sites they want to see. Upon arrival and the park, visitors are thrust into a world that is defined by exact architectural relationships and languages. The frame of the park, due to its roots in deconstructivism, has the ability to change and react to the functions that it holds within. The relationships between the park and the cultural interactions that are found in the park are dynamic in nature and have the ability to change. The true deconstructive-ness of the Parc de la Villette is apparent in its ability to host these interactions in an environment that is built on the platform of cyclical change and reaction.
The Parc de la Villette is:
|located near the metro stations: Porte de la Villette, Corentin Cariou or Porte de Pantin.|
It is served by lines 5 and 7.
la Grande halle de La Villette