The High Line’s French Ancestor: La Promenade Plantée

September 23, 2011 by


The view looking down into the park from the entrance above.

The model for its contemporary American cousin, The High Line, Paris’s Promenade Plantée, also known as the Coulée Verte (or “Flowing Green”), was the world’s first and only elevated park before its New York relative spawned numerous followers, including Chicago’s Bloomingdale Trail, Philadelphia’s Reading Viaduct, Rotterdam’s Hofplein station, and a recently announced new elevated structure in Mexico City that will link a subway station to Chapultepec Forest, the city’s largest park.

 


Covered passages open onto open expansive and intimate seating areas.

Built on the former train tracks of the Vincennes railway, it was resurrected in 1990 as an extensive urban green belt which runs about 2.8 miles along nearly the entire length of Paris’s 12th arrondissement, from the Bois de Vincennes on one end to the Place de la Bastille on the other, its last hundred yards opening onto the Opéra Bastille.


Reflecting pools were dry but I could imagine how they looked filled.

Rising almost secretly 3o feet above the busy streets below it, the roughly one mile long elevated portion of the Promenade Plantée is supported by the Viaduct des Arts–70 arches of the old crumbling railroad viaduct rescued from scheduled demolition and restored in 1998, now home to a restaurant and café, furniture showrooms, galleries, and the 45 studios of cabinet-makers, sculptors, ceramicists, tapestry-makers, violin and flute makers, restorers of furniture and art objects and interior designers.


An outdoor gallery: the trellised wall beside the stone and painted facade was a study in contrasts.

I started my journey on the ground-level portion of the park, entering a few blocks off the Place Felix Eboué, where the Avenue Daumesnil intersects the Boulevard de Reuilly. There were no signs confirming I was anywhere near the park. Although I speak fluent French, when I asked several passersby, not a single person could direct me there. I tend to be geographically challenged, yet I managed to wind around several little streets until I saw a small sign beside a stairway alerting me to one of the park’s entrances.

Descending a flight of stairs, I was found myself on the sought-after verdant path which delivered me into an underground tunnel-turned-grotto with waterfalls providing a pleasant sound as I made my way to the other end.

After the Allée Vivaldi, there is a little bonus gift in the form of the Jardin de Reuilly. A tiny detour into this charming park took me off the trail for a moment, but one that was well worth it. There I have scoped out the perfect spot for a future picnic.

There are some incredibly narrow points on the promenade. Just after crossing the footbridge to the elevated portion, above, the park seems to slice through two buildings, letting walkers squeeze in between them. The park was like a living being with many personalities, each part of it offering a different view of the city, along with a variety of scents and flavors.

Joggers ran by, mothers pushed strollers, and lovers walked arm in arm or kissed on park benches as I navigated the linear greenscape past roses and hollyhocks, with the scent of rosemary in the air.

Punctuated with arched grapevine trellises, allées of bamboo, and columns of fragrant roses, ah–there were so many roses!

At some points, I had a voyeuristic bird’s-eye view of some Parisian apartments and terraces and was thinking how fortunate those residences were to live right next to this hidden garden in the sky.

I was hoping I wouldn’t been seen as I peered into neighbor’s windows!

The park’s allées are like entrances to its various sections, each defined by different plantings and hardscaping.


Check out those French derrières!

Every turn revealed another jewel: small reflecting pools, architectural details, and even a bit of al fresco Michelangelo: At one point, I looked out to see a building whose facade was adorned with 12 reproductions of Michaelangelo’s “The Dying Slave,” above. The original statues can be found in the Louvre Museum.

When I arrived at the end marked by the Bastille,  I felt just as I do after enjoying of a fabulous French meal– sated, but wanting more. Anyone for a walk?

Photos by Robin Plaskoff Horton.

25 Comments »

  1. Ellen Spector Platt said:

    Promenade Plantee may claim to be the first but in 1984 The Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne MA was planted and opened to the public. Once a trolley bridge connecting 2 sides of the town, visitors can stroll over the Deerfield River between lush plantings maintained by the garden club and a professional gardener.
    As with The High Line here in NYC, The Flower Bridge has spawned economic revitalization. Go Flowers!

    — September 24, 2011 @ 09:26

  2. patty sechi said:

    I love the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls, MA! It has developed so much over the years and it is an amazing garden and arboretum. My sister and her husband went to a wonderful healthy, gourmet dinner this summer that was served at tables that spanned the bridge.

    — September 24, 2011 @ 11:10

  3. Robin Plaskoff Horton said:

    Thank you Ellen and Patti for sharing about The Bridge of Flowers–what a wonderful spot–I have to visit! I wonder if there ar other lesser known transformations such as these around the world.

    — September 24, 2011 @ 13:56

  4. John shields said:

    A wonderful coincidence! I received your article on my free day of a business trip to Paris. Headed to the Bastille a couple of hours later and relived your tour on a beautiful day. Thanks for your advice; I never would have found it otherwise.

    — September 25, 2011 @ 06:16

  5. Robin Plaskoff Horton said:

    John, I am so thrilled the post led you to experience the Promenade Plantée! Had I known you were in Paris, I would have told you about some of the little hidden gardens I have visited in the past: http://ow.ly/6Eaaa

    — September 25, 2011 @ 10:53

  6. zachynyoga said:

    Beautiful photography, everything is so green.

    — September 25, 2011 @ 11:33

  7. Bobolinker said:

    Let’s see some photos of The Bridge of Flowers. I can’t imagine it is more beautiful than the Promenade Plantée. Great ideas, both of them, in any case.

    — September 25, 2011 @ 12:55

  8. velojoy said:

    Thanks for this wonderful post, Robin. Looking forward to visiting on my next trip to Paris. Of course, it was the bike lanes in the top photo that caught my eye!

    — September 25, 2011 @ 20:33

  9. Barbara said:

    This is a great example for American cities to think about adding/adapting somehow. Paris is not on my bucket list but it is wonderful.

    A little history – it was Jean Preece-Doswell who visited the Promenade and took lots of pictures that were shown at the community meeting that was voting (CB4 in Manhattan) on whether it would support the idea of the High Line. Our group, Friends of Pier 84, was 100% for it (yes, I also spoke that night in praise of the elevated garden) and it is just a beautiful place.

    — September 27, 2011 @ 12:50

  10. Interior plant service - Indoor landscape designs - Office plants -Interior plantscapes - Interior plant maintenance - Christmas decorating - Silk replica plants -landscaping - landscape - washington dc - alexandria va - arlington va - mclean va - tysons Pingback said:

    […] The High Line’s French Ancestor: La Promenade Plantée […]

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  11. Urban Gardens 2011 Roundup! | Urban Gardens | Unlimited Thinking For Limited Spaces | Urban Gardens Pingback said:

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  13. Vive La France! Urban Gardens Paris Roundup | Urban Gardens | Unlimited Thinking For Limited Spaces | Urban Gardens Pingback said:

    […] Trellised arbor on the Promenade Plantée. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton, Urban Gardens. […]

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  15. New York's High Line at Rail Yards Features Landscaped Outdoor Room Pingback said:

    […] Accessed through a circular structure lined with dense woodland plantings, The Spur will be park’s widest area and will also establish the High Line’s northeast terminus. This last stretch of the park will extend across the intersection of 10th Avenue and West 30th Street, north of the already transformed portion of the elevated urban green space. […]

    — December 11, 2013 @ 18:23

  16. Living Walls of Medicinal Plants in Paris Pharmacy Pingback said:

    […] in the Bastille, where late night clubs and avant-garde galleries mix with gardens and elevated green spaces, MaPharmacie is like it’s surroundings, a blend of history and contemporary artistic […]

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  19. Robin Horton said:

    I know, I had never heard of The Bridge of Flowers! Now it’s on my list of places to visit.

    — April 7, 2015 @ 23:15

  20. Robin Horton said:

    It was a “velo” joy to visit this place and to share it with you!

    — April 7, 2015 @ 23:15

  21. Robin Horton said:

    Thanks for the wonderful back story Barbara and thank you, people like you and your group help make that happen.

    — April 7, 2015 @ 23:15

  22. Robin Horton said:

    Thank you. It was stunning and so much fun to experience.

    — April 7, 2015 @ 23:16

  23. Robin Horton said:

    No sure why my replay postd above your comment, but…so happy the post led you to the Promenade.

    — April 7, 2015 @ 23:17

  24. NYC's Lowline Underground Park To See the Light of Day - Urban Gardens Pingback said:

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  25. Seoul Highway Overpass Transformed Into Elevated Public Skygarden - Urban Gardens Pingback said:

    […] in the footsteps of  New York’s High Line and its Parisian ancestor, The Promenade Plantée, both revitalization projects on former railway tracks, Seouillo is 983 meters (over a half mile) […]

    — October 10, 2017 @ 15:58

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