Floating Gardens, Giant Chalkboards, and Climbing Walls on Banks of Seine in Paris
August 12, 2013 by Sarah Amandolare
Paris is transforming an utterly urban area along the River Seine to a cleaner, greener space. A new Left Bank promenade called the Berges de Seine (Banks of the Seine) was unveiled last month, and is quickly drawing crowds of walkers, cyclists and urbanites seeking a bit of nature.
The approximately 1.5-mile stretch features edible and floating gardens, patches of local plants, entertainment venues and innovative areas for children and adults to play and relax.
Known as Les Berges, the walkway is connected by footbridges to another pedestrian zones on the opposite bank, a 1.2 mile section of the Georges Pompidou highway that has been closed to traffic since last summer.
The park’s coup de grace is an 1800-square-meter floating garden, comprised of five separate islands connected by bridges. This manmade archipelago grows a carefully designed combination of semi-aquatic plants and grasses. Likewise, the 400-square-meter garden in City Hall Square features native plants, including shrubs, grasses, vines and willow trees.
Among Les Berges’ intriguing design touches are shipping containers that have been converted to private cabins called Zzz. Perfect for relaxing or holding private parties, these spaces are surrounded by local plants and can be reserved in advance for up to 90 minutes.
Photo: Mairie de Paris.
And there are plenty of whimsical activities for kids, including teepees that can be rented out for birthday parties, climbing walls, and a 20 x 3-meter slate chalk board for doodling and drawing. Work-weary parents, meanwhile, can take advantage of cozy reading nooks, comfortable wooden lounge chairs, live music performances and art exhibits.
A bigger sustainability push is behind Les Berges. The Biodiversity Plan for Paris, developed in 2010, aims to bolster the variety of plants and animals throughout the city. The plan includes citizen workshops at four pilot locations, including the banks of the Seine, where locals will focus on managing riverside species, paying close attention to the impacts of human activity on plants and wildlife.
Currently, 75 percent of France’s population resides in urban environments. Les Berges presents an opportunity to infuse some much needed nature into the Parisian psyche.
Amazingly, the city boasts more than 2,000 species of wild plants and fungi, plus 174 bird species and more than 30 fish species.
Most locals and visitors overlook this abundance of nature, but thanks to Les Berges, that mentality is likely to change sooner rather than later.