La Petite Ceinture: reanimating the urban fringe

Just inside the city of Paris lays a derelict train track, hidden and forgotten, called “La Petite Ceinture”, the little belt. This belt of abandonment forms a ring through the outer arrondissements and connects these utterly different worlds through a place of continuity. It forms a connection between the shabby areas of the 19th arrondissement with the fancy old ladies in the 16th and mingles the posh families of the 14th with the hipsters in the 20th.

It was built in the 1850’s, but finally stopped functioning as a public transport in the 30’s with the emerging of the metro and by the 1990’s it was abandoned for good. Its tracks traverse the city on high bridges and within deep trenches, through green islands and dark tunnels. Now some of its former stations found new destinations, while others are left to insubordination and the forces of nature. The tracks and tunnels now form a welcome hub of lawlessness, drawing in graffiti artists, vagabonds, urban explorers and mischievous kids, eager to escape the control of the city.

On an urban level I try to connect the neighbourhoods once more, using the former stations as points of transition. Later, I zoom in on two recently abandoned stations and the small part of the tracks in between, reimagining them as a public walkway, whilst maintaining the values of decay. This way I can restore not only the physical ring, but reanimate the immaterial presence of “la Petite Ceinture” in the minds of the Parisians.

About Coen van Bergeijk