The Landscape Guide

18.5 Naming Parc de la Villette, Paris

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An ironic tussle has occurred over the naming of the project. The sponsors wanted a "park'. Tschumi wittily deconstructed the brief. Believing the term "park' had "lost its meaning', he decided to provide his clients with "the largest discontinuous building in the world'. His clients, with a mischievous sense of humour, have re-deconstructed the discontinuous building back into what they call Parc de la Villette.

There are problems with the word "park'. Etymologically, a park is an enclosed place for keeping beasts, as distinct from an unenclosed "forest'. Early town parks were also enclosed, by wooden and then iron fencing. In Britain and Germany the barriers and the supervision have been removed to a greater extent than in France. But this has not brought about a fundamental difference in the character of the parks. Many are predominantly vegetated and predominantly recreational. Personally, I would like to see Parc de la Villette deconstructed, or reconstructed, as an element in a citywide zone of "greenspace'. Green webs can meander through cities, flanked by good architecture, cafes, flowers, basketball courts, metro stations and other public facilities. Parc de la Villette already functions in such a concept. The Canal Saint Denis leads to another component at Place Stalingrad, another at the Porte de Plaisance, and then to the banks of the Seine. In principle, I have sympathy with Tschumi's doubts about the word "park', but I agree with his clients. Visitors might not flock to a "large discontinuous building'. They might await its completion.

Le maire de Paris wittily deconstructed the 'largest discontinuous building in the world' - and made it a parc