Parc André Citroën

Modern Garden of Versailles or Design Misstep?

Parc André Citroën, sitting between City Centre and the residential zone of Paris, was built to act as an intermediary to the rural and urban lifestyles that reside on either side. At first, the park drew crowds who were looking for an escape from the congested city. It’s modern take on the historical gardens like Versailles sparked interest in those looking for a place to get away. This didn’t last long as controversy against the park grew when people started to question whether the park’s design lacked practical commodities that could have made the garden an escape from busy, city life.

Parc André Citroën was built in 1992 in the 15th Arrondissement on the South bank of the Seine river. The park was built on a former Citroen automobile factory, and named after the company’s founder, Andre Citroën. The park was designed with the intention of intertwining nature with the architectural side of central Paris. The entrance of the park reflects an urban environment designed with orderly, geometric lines. The Great Lawn in the middle has diagonal pathways cutting through geometric blocks of foliage which surround the large open space. In 1999, the park started offering hot air balloon rides in this space where people could pay to overlook the city. At the end of the lawn are two giant, modern greenhouses. These greenhouses contain six themed gardens that related to each of the six senses: sight, smell, touch, taste, hearing, and intuition.

This mediator between urban and rural life dwindled in fame when people started to question whether the park was designed without focusing on practicality and looking more towards the minimalism, and uniformity that often goes hand-in-hand with modern architecture. First, criticism arose when attendees complained about lack of seating and resting points within the park. The Great Lawn is a place where a variety of people can run and play. Yet, for parents who want to sit and watch their children or for those resting to people watch seating is limited. The park has even been described as anti-social. Although not enforced strictly, running through the fountains impeded in the ground is frowned upon. The general lack of activity is off-putting to park-goers. Even the famous hot air balloon rides have come to an end. Present-day attendees have reported that the balloon has remained in the park unused for years. The themed gardens have also faced criticism. Although the modern, almost spiritual environments were designed so keenly, the gardens have been described as detached, impersonal zones. According to a recent critic of Parc Andre Citroen, Victor Grennan (2016): Sometimes you feel at one with nature in these small private gardens, but on the other hand you feel like a visitor at a zoo viewing plants trapped between geometric conformity.

The designers of Parc André Citroën had great intentions for how well the park would fit into the bustling city aesthetically, yet they lacked practicality and ecological thought to pull it off. The natural side of the park is entirely made up of man-made environments. Instead of focusing on the management of nature, creators were more interested in the overall design of the environment. I can’t be the first one to say that this park needs a reboot. Not even two miles away from the Eiffel Tower, Parc André Citroën could be a beautiful spot for those visiting the city to relax and take in a modernized version of the large, historical gardens Paris is known for. It could even become what it was intended for, an escape for residents of the city looking to get away from tight, crowded Parisian streets.



2 Rue Cauchy, 75015 Paris, France