Paris has sixteen metro stations that are no longer in use. All abandoned between 1930 and 1970, these underground spaces are doing just that: taking up space. As in any metropolitan city, empty and usable space is a welcome sight. But what could these derelict, forgotten stations really be used for, and where can they possibly fit in modern Paris?
There's something intriguing about an abandoned dwelling. Whether it's the mysterious nature, the draw of being somewhere that's not “allowed”, or the hope of absorbing a piece of history while avoiding detection, the Paris metro stations are no different. Rumors of a haunted nature, for example, have swirled around their existence. Those stations that were abandoned many years ago continue to be hidden in a cloak of the past.
While two of the metro stations, Porto Militor and Haxo, were built and never functioned, others are completely abandoned, or serve some continued purpose. Working trains run through the abandoned Saint-Martin station, and it is said that advertisers use the walls to hopefully attract current train riders. The halls of this station are also used as a homeless shelter.
Repurposing the stations into lively new spaces such as a public swimming pool, art gallery, or nightclub have long been in the works. While they have garnered interest, they have had a hard time gaining solid backing. The mayoral candidate Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet proposed extensive transformation plans to turn the abandoned stations into a new nightlife scene, but those plans dissolved when she lost the election in 2014.
As of 2018 an inventive contest, Reinvent Paris 2, has asked for architects and designers to submit their designs for the abandoned stations. The winners are due to be picked in November 2018. On paper it sounds like a solid idea, giving innovators the chance to transform something unusable into something modern, functional, and enjoyable for the public. But there seems to be some skepticism after Reinvent Paris 1, the first iteration of the contest. The first contest focused on reinventing important architectural sections of Paris. The critics of it claim that the winning designs were more elitist than inclusive.
Despite the criticism, the renovations of the abandoned metro stations, if successful, could serve as a template for other cities and as an example of ground breaking urban planning. Seeing an art exhibition in a gritty, underground tunnel could give new meaning to the artwork, just as the juxtaposition of a garden underground or a mysterious nightclub tucked away on old train tracks could change the underground of Paris and give the city a new dimension. Only time will tell how this ambitious project will turn out.