And now, for something completely different: Parc de la Villette is quite possibly the most interesting and innovative park in Paris. Some people even consider it as a prototype of what a park from the future would be… and they’d be right.
Parc de la Villette extends over 55 ha (136 acres) and is the largest fully-landscaped park in the city. However, only 35 ha (86 acres) are green spaces. But what exactly makes this park different? Despite the fountains, ponds, waterfalls, walkways, bridges, trees, lawns and shrubs one would expect to see in traditional parks, Parc de la Villette also includes 26 huge architectural follies (21st century gazebos), colorful and geometrical human-built architectural pieces that clash with the park’s vegetation.
Attracting over 10 million visitors per year, the park was designed by Bernard Tschumi and built from 1984 to 1987 over Parisian slaughterhouses and meat markets as part of an urban development program. When designing the park, Tschumi was inspired by Jacques Derrida’s deconstructionist philosophy and the explanation for most of Parc de la Villette’s oddities can be explained by this tiny little fact.
Tschumi wished that no person who entered the park would be able to discover and walk through it based on their knowledge of previous traditional parks (which the architect considered to be self-indulgent). There are no gates, fences or signs at the Parc de la Villette and its 10 themed gardens are to be discovered and explored as one makes their way through its blue paved paths, using the clashing follies as landmarks.
All of Parc de la Villette’s different gardens have their own specific characteristics and will awe both adults and kids alike. One really feels as if they’re hopping from one universe to the next, adventurously exploring the fantastically unknown.
The Garden of Mirrors is famous for its reflections, while the Trellis Garden nestles 90 fountains in its lingering vines and climbing plants for a really breathtaking effect. You can even find a Garden of Balance with giant kites, a Shadow Garden with mesmerizing lighting effects and a Dragon Garden, with a 24 m (80 ft) steel dragon that is really a children’s slide. The park is divided by the canal de l’Ourcq where boat rides through the Parc de la Villette and to other Paris attractions are offered.
However, that’s not all of it; Tschumi also wished his design to be dynamic, flexible and easily interchangeable so as to keep surprising anyone who walked through the Parc de la Villette’s intertwining paths. This is why different events are continuously being held within the park, often changing locations and affecting opening and closing times. Furthermore, local Parisian artists and musicians can be easily found within the Parc de la Villette, exhibiting their talent and works and making sure that no visit to the park is the same as the last one.
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