Annie Grey reports on the plans for Paris’ Champs-Élysées and its green makeover.
Photo by Madalena Veloso
The Champs-Élysées in the French capital is set to be given a €250 million (£225m) green makeover, the mayor of Paris has announced. Anne Hidalgo, the city’s mayor, told French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche that the work would make the 1.9km (1.2 mile) long road – one of the most famous streets in the world – into “an extraordinary garden”.
The Champs-Élysées committee have been campaigning for a major redesign of the avenue and the infamous Arc de Triomphe roundabout since 2018, as the area has lost its ‘splendour’. What was once called the “most beautiful avenue in the world” now features cracked pavements, and the trees that line the cobbled, traffic-clogged road struggle to survive in one of Paris’s most polluted areas.
The Destructive Impact of Tourism
The committee held a public consultation over what should be done with the avenue. The plans include reducing space for vehicles by half, turning roads into pedestrian and green areas, and creating tunnels of trees to improve air quality.
Before the coronavirus pandemic brought a stop to international tourism, there were approximately 100,000 pedestrians on the avenue daily; 72% were tourists and 22% work in the area. The eight-lane highway is used by an average of 3000 vehicles an hour, significantly contributing to the worsening air quality.
Philippe Chiambaretta, the architect whose firm PCA-Stream drew up the makeover plans, said that the Champs-Élysées had become a place that summed up the problems faced by cities around the world – “pollution, the place of the car, tourism and consumerism” – and needed to be redeveloped to be “ecological, desirable, and inclusive”.
The Benefits of Green Space in Cities
Green spaces in cities mitigate the effects of pollution and can reduce a phenomenon known as the urban heat island effect, which refers to heat trapped in built-up areas. The heat generated by people, transport, shops, and industry is trapped in the narrow roads and concrete structures, unable to escape to the atmosphere, in turn potentially increasing the temperature in urban areas to 3-4°C higher than the surrounding countryside.
The creation of an urban biodiversity layer acts as a solution to these issues, as they significantly contribute to the improvement of environmental conditions:
Green roofs act as sinks for carbon dioxide, the gas responsible for climate change. For each 100 square metres of green roof, CO2 levels are reduced by 1.8 tonnes per year.
The pollution emitted by 15 cars in a year can be removed by 100 square metres of green roof, since the leaves of the green roof plants can retain these harmful particles on their surfaces.
Green spaces can reduce the ambient temperature of cities by 1°C, further reducing the urban heat island and harmful city smog.
Green rooves also retain 40% of rainwater and can delay water discharge by 18 minutes in episodes of intense rain, preventing the collapse of urban drainage systems.
The ‘greening’ of the Champs-Élysées will reportedly start with the highly frequented Place de la Concorde square, which is expected to be completed before the Paris Olympic Games in 2024. Afterwards, the mayor’s office plans to transform the entirety of the avenue, with plans to finish the project by 2030.
Planning cities to include green spaces, wherever possible, is the first step in creating healthy urban areas which are both sustainable and beautiful in the long-term.
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