The Landscape Guide

18.4 Politics of Parc de la Villette, Paris

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Along with the other Grand Projects, Parc de la Villette states, unambiguously, that Paris aspires to be the cultural capital of the universe. Bernard Tschumi has subordinated himself to this cause, as surely as Le Notre glorified Louis XIV and Baron Haussmann magnified the power of the French state. We could affix an emblem inspired by the Palace of Versailles: Parc de la Villette: A toutes les gloires de la France. As it is difficult to gain a perspective on recent times, I would not wish to judge Mitterand's France. But I have been able to reach some conclusions about Louis Quatorze and Louis Napoleon. Despite their patronage for the arts, I am horrified at the way in which one taxed his peasantry in order to prosecute a ruinous war against Holland and the other put communards to the musket in 1870. Given such precedents, one could feel uneasy about being used as the tool of politicians hell-bent on national glory. The twentieth century saw too many enterprises of this ilk lurch from hubris to nemesis. None should forget Albert Speer. On a very bad night, it is possible to envisage the quest for glory leading to a European superstate with hegemonistic ambitions, no more enlightened than the Common Fisheries Policy, but fully in character with Europe's imperial past.

Versailles: 'To all the glories of France'

The EU Common Fishery Policy wrecked North Sea fish stocks - pour la gloire