Reclaiming the Petite Ceinture (Little Belt)
In the perspective of the opening and development of the Petite Ceinture, the City of Paris wished to engage in a prospective and collaborative work with the inhabitants and associations, on the possible uses of this former railway line surrounding Paris.
3 multidisciplinary collectives (architects, urban designers, landscapers, mediators, sociologists, builders…) were commissioned to set up a co-design and co-construction process.
For 18 months, in the 12th and 20th districts, the Ceinturama collective, created for the project and bringing together Bruit du Frigo (architects and artists), Wagon Landscaping (landscapers), Anne Labroille (architect, urban designer) and Laurent Becker (engineer) imagined projects and collaborative actions aimed at experimenting and prefiguring possible uses and developments on this exceptional site, around various themes : urban agriculture, soft mobility, leisure, sports, culture…
In the 12th arrondissement, on a 1.7 km section open since the summer of 2019 between the Villa du Bel Air and Rue des Meuniers, we have run a series of exploratory walks on this future promenade, inviting various groups (neighbourhood councils, women, seniors, schools and activity centres, people with disabilities, gardeners, residents and the curious, etc.) to discover the place and imagine ways to occupy it.
Installations punctuating the future route have been created as part of building sites open to the public : elements of furniture and signage giving walkers information about the route, the history of the place and its biodiversity.
In the 20th arrondissement, at the former Ménilmontant train station, workshops conducted with the inhabitants, associations and actors of the district made it possible to question the programming of the place and to define a development sketch.
The station, which has been open to the public since November 2018, offers light and reversible facilities, accompanied by planting and sowing of plants already found in the Little Belt.
A landscape diagnosis has been carried out on the entire section. It focuses on the recognition of the specific plant dynamics of the railway wasteland and aims to propose a landscape project based on knowledge of living organisms and garden maintenance methods in collaboration with the social inclusion structures working on the site.
What’s the Petite Ceinture ?
The Petite Ceinture de Paris is an old double-track railway line, 32 kilometres long, which circled around Paris inside the Boulevards des Maréchaux. Opened in sections from 1852 to 1869, it was first exclusively dedicated to freight traffic before being opened to passenger traffic.
Deserted by Parisians due to growing competition from the Subway, which offered Parisians services in the heart of Paris, most of its route was closed to passenger traffic since 23 July 1934.
Freight traffic has also disappeared since the early 90s. The line is now largely abandoned.
Today partly inaccessible to the public, the Petite Ceinture constitutes a breathing space and a natural area in the heart of Paris, characterized by spontaneous wild vegetation, typical of urban wastelands or linear infrastructures. The various strata (mineral, herbaceous, shrubby and tree-lined) that make up the belt are useful both ecologically, especially for wildlife, and in terms of landscape. The Petite Ceinture thus plays the role of an ecological and exceptional biodiversity corridor.