The Paris Heritage Strolls
Fountains of yesterday and today
FROM THE LA VILLETTE BASIN TO PÈRE-LACHAISE
Stepped cascades, cascade fountains, basins, fountain walls and mazes - a wide variety of fountain types can be found in North-East Paris.
To this list we can also add the drinking fountains dotted about the district, like the Wallace Fountain that awaits walkers at the corner of Rue de Meaux and Avenue Jean-Jaurès, with a thin jet of water reminding us that Belleville hill was rich in spring water in the Middle Ages.
With the exception of the two fountains that are considerably older, the Château d’eau Fountain (1806) that stands in front of the Grande Hall (Great Hall) of La Villette and the stepped cascade on Square de la Butte-du-Chapeau-Rouge (1937), the other fountains along the walk were created as part of the programmes to redevelop the East Paris that were launched in 1983. While some of them are in keeping with the ornamental fountain tradition (Square Marcel-Mouloudji), others have abandoned all decorative references to highlight the movement of the water within the space (Place des fêtes, Square des Amandiers).
Whether in the area around La Villette Basin (the Loire quay area, Avenue Jean-Jaurès) or in the Amandiers district, the creation of fountains in squares or in the centres of urban blocks promoted a return to neighbourhood life in urban areas that had often been through periods of upheaval. In some cases, the presence of water also helped to structure the surrounding landscape. This is the case at Belleville Park, where the link between the panoramic viewpoint on Rue Piat and Square de Palikao, at the bottom of the garden, is based on the continuous path of the water. This was the result of a very elaborate programme of fountain-building.
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(19th) 81 rue Armand Carrel
Jacques Ibert Municipal Conservatory, designed by the architect Fernand Pouillon, was completed in 1987 as part of a complete redevelopment of the area. Its lateral façade with its blind niche forms the monumental entrance on Rue Armand-Carrel. The construction of this street extending to Avenue Jean-Jaurès, which had been planned during the Second Empire when Buttes-Chaumont Park was established, was completed on this occasion. Standing at the centre of the wall that forms the backdrop, a fountain made up of a set of interlocking Doric columns lets the water flow to a mouth decorated with congelations. The shapes signal the search for a dialogue with the rotunda by Ledoux, which is located on the other side of the square. At night time, the streams of water are lit up using light effects that make you forget the relatively poor quality of the building materials used.
(19th) 74 av. Jean-Jaurès
Square Marcel Mouloudji
Square Marcel-Mouloudji, located a short distance from the canal, was created in the middle of the 1980’s as part of the development of the La Villette Basin. Inserted at the centre of a completely renovated urban block and adjoining the avenue via a huge passage under a porch (no. 69/71), it forms a welcoming place that joins the La Villette Basin further along. The fountain that adorns the centre of the basin was created by the sculptor Davos Hanich, who was Fernand Léger’s assistant.
Composed of two hemispheres made of polished stainless steel - a material that the artist greatly appreciated because of the light effects it creates - its central axis supports a series of pipes from which the water springs forth. The work is part of a creative trend, several other examples of which exist in Paris (the Souham Fountain by Alberto Guzman and the Jussieu Fountain by Guy Lartigue). The fountain stands out as a geometric shape with a streamlined appearance.
(19th) La Villette Park
Château d’eau Fountain
The Château d’eau Fountain, which now stands before the Grande Halle (Great Hall) of La Villette, comes from the old crossroads that was created between Boulevard Saint-Martin and Rue Bondy.
It was partially destroyed when the Place de la République was created.
When it was designed during the First Empire by the engineer Girard, Director of the Eaux de Paris (company that manages the waterways of Paris), it was supplied by water from the River Ourcq. After standing at the centre of the new square for a while, it was installed at La Villette at the end of the Second Empire. The lions, grouped two by two, and the old basin that dominates the structure were cast at Le Creusot. They are some of the earliest examples of cast iron being used to make fountains. The stone base, which still stands today, is modern. It grounds the monument - it looks lost on this big esplanade, which is somewhat out of scale and provides access to the site on the Porte de Pantin side.
(19th) Butte-du-chapeau-rouge Park
Butte-du-Chapeau-rouge Park was developed in the late 1930’s on a section of the old fortifications by Léon Azéma, who was an architect of the City of Paris in charge of walkways. The site was a former quarry area, the Carrières d’Amérique (America Quarries), where gypsum was extracted. It stretched as far as Buttes
Chaumont Park. The redevelopment scheme made use of its uneven surface, which the architect drew on to create a large trapezoidal parterre leading to the stepped cascade that closes off the lower part of the park. Brick, a very popular material among garden architects in the 1930’s, emphasises the tiered structure down which the water cascades. A stone female nude by the sculptor Raymond Couvègnes dominates the ensemble. This work, in a Neo-Classic style in keeping with that of the park, was commissioned for the international exhibition of 1937. Surrounded by twenty-four white staff trophies symbolising Paris and the Arts, it decorated the gate of Boulevard Delessert, hence the name that is sometimes used to refer to it: L’Accueil de Paris (Welcome to Paris).
(19th) Place des Fêtes
This project by Marta Pan, selected for the Place des Fêtes following a restricted competition held in 1980 to encourage the creation of new fountains in Paris, was chosen over projects by Alicia Penalba and Alberto Guzman.
The artist describe her work as follows: “The fountain is made up of five concentric basins extending from the steps along a gradual slope. The tiers wrap around the fountain and connect it to the ground around it on all sides.” The water current is inverted from basin to basin, which makes it appear to move faster. In the original arrangement, a wall of water was added to the tiers, providing them with a background. The water streamed along the gently sloping wall and disappeared into a discharge spout at the foot of the wall. The work, inaugurated in 1986, marked both the desire to introduce living art into the urban environment and give a new identity to a place that was deconstructed by town planning in the 1960’s.
(20th) Rue Piat - Rue Julien Lacroix
Belleville Hill has been known for its streams since Antiquity.
Its springs, which were used by the Romans, were canalised under Philip Augustus to serve the religious communities that had settled to the north-east of the Seine. This water, an emblem of the place, is at the heart of the landscape design of the park designed by the architect Paul Debulois and the landscape architect Paul Brichet.
The garden, inaugurated in 1988, offers a view of the biggest cascade fountain in the gardens of Paris. It is best seen from the top of the panoramic viewpoint at the end of Rue des Envierges.
Emphasising the main axis of the park, it starts off with a calm line of water that runs along the stairs and ramps. Then it descends a little through a gap surrounded by plants, and by degrees gradually joins a group of basins arranged in a fan shape, carrying the gaze as far as the slope of Rue de Palikao and Boulevard de Belleville. The stream in Belleville Park is one of the greatest successes of landscape gardening in 1980’s Paris.
(20th) Rue Julien-Lacroix
Square de Palikao
Instead of stopping abruptly at the bottom of Belleville Park where it meets Rue Julien-Lacroix, the landscape design of the hill is extended by a terrace garden that opens onto the berm of the slope.
The Square de Palikao, also designed by Paul Debulois and Paul Brichet, provides a resting place on the way down and serves as a link with the urbanised space that follows it. The difference in level, absorbed by a set of ramps and stairs, is marked by the presence of a circular pond that rounds off a carefully designed composition.
(20th) Rue Duris
Square des Amandiers
In order to preserve a traditional organisation at this site, the project to renovate the block, which was devised in the early 1980’s, involved doubling the surface area of a former green space and opening it up to the renovated area. Most of the new neighbourhood’s public amenities - crèche, school, music conservatory, old people’s home, sports ground - are located around the edge of the new Square des Amandiers (completed in 1992), making it the central place that the developers wanted.
There is an access path from Rue des Amandiers, created on a former section of Rue des Cendriers that is now declassified.
The landscape architect Dominique Caire treated this reminder of the old neighbourhood like a tree-lined jetty, using the gradient of the land to install a fountain wall where the water pours into a vast basin at the centre of the square. Visitors may notice the highly stylised treatment of the elevation, reminiscent of a bunker façade, and may be surprised to see a lookout there.
(20th) Rue des Amandiers
Les Coudriers Buildings
The Water Spirits
The Les Coudriers housing scheme built by the architects Andrault and
Parat, the designers of the Palais Omnisport de Paris-Bercy, included creating small an internal square connecting the various paths in the block. The fountain, created in 1985 at the centre of the paved area by Yvette Vincent-Alleaume, accentuates this convergence. It is a happy throwback to the tradition of the village fountain as a meeting point and place for sharing. Its post-Cubist outlines may directly echo the geometry of the surrounding architectural forms but they also signal a return to figurative representation, veiled in mystery here, as if to impose itself more forcefully on its monumental surroundings.
|La Villette Park||Belleville Park||Butte du Chapeau Rouge Park||Square Marcel Mouloudji|
Throughout the capital, the Department of Cultural Affairs of the City of Paris maintains some six hundred commemorative monuments and statues which form part of the municipal heritage. These works, most of which date from the beginning of the Third Republic, are the result of an active policy of artistic commissions intended to decorate the squares and streets, in accordance with the wishes of the elected officials of Paris. They include some of the masterpieces of French sculpture: The Fountain of the Four Continents by Carpeaux and The Triumph of the Republic by Dalou.
The 20th century was for a long time more cautious in this respect, but over the last twenty years or so, the City of Paris has revived the tradition of commissioning public art. In 2004, it set up the Art Committee in the City, a consultative committee of elected officials and experts to provide an opinion on policy in this area. Together with this Committee, the City of Paris commissioned 35 permanent or temporary public works between 2004 and 2008.
From Exercise Tower by Wang Du (Paris 17th) to the Dance of the Emerging Fountain by Chen Zhen (Paris 13th) and the Forest of Candelabras by the Berlin collective Inges Idee (Paris 19th), all these works can be discovered throughout Paris.
Find all Vélib’ points at www.velib.paris.fr