Ring Road's City

View all photos

The ring road is meant for driving on, not for living on.

 

The ring road is of course a road, but it is more than a road: it is a territory which encompasses an infrastructure. A territory which has been built on, a territory with housing and offices, which forms a buffer zone between Paris and its suburbs. It is both a piece of the city and a border in the city...

 

Like all territories, this thin, 400 metres wide strip which encircles the capital, has a memory. A way of defining history, and a geography. The geography is easy: we go around and around in circles between Paris and the suburbs. For the history, we have to go back two centuries, when the military belt was constructed around Paris on Thier's initiative, in 1840. Then there were the fortifcations and 'the zone', the HBMs of 1924 and Lafay's HLMs in 1953. At the end of the glorious thirties, under Charles de Gaulle with his huge work sites - all the engineers and concrete - a project was born which took 40 years to take root and finally the 'périph' (ring-road) was constructed, between 1959 and 1973.

 

Inaugurated 40 years ago and maintained with care ever since, one question remains: how can we bear to live with it? With 230 000 vehicles per day travelling on it, the Parisian ring-road has the most dense traffic statistics in Europe.

 

Richard Copans

(Director of the documentary film 'Paris Périph' (2004, 54mn) Coproduction: ARTE France, Les Films d’Ici, Forum des Images)