Arguably the most famous avenue in the world, the Champs-Élysées, is set for a green makeover following the 2024 Summer Olympics. The €250 million project will begin prior to the Olympics, transforming Place de la Concorde, before turning the 1.9km (1.2 mile) stretch of the Champs-Élysées into an 'extraordinary garden'.
A symbol of French History
The Champs-Élysées’ is named after the mythical Greek paradise, the Elysian Fields. Converted from a swamp by André Le Nôtre, Louis XIV the Sun King’s gardener (who designed Versailles!), the wide promenade was lined with a double row of elm trees on each side and was named the Grand Cours.
It was renamed the Champs-Élysées in 1709 and extended, and by the end of the century had become a popular place to walk and picnic. The Champs-Élysées retraces 350 years of French history, aligning monuments from the Grande Arche in La Defense, to the Arc de Triomphe, Place de la Concorde and the Louvre.
The design, and this grand alignment, brought fame to French urban planning. Thought to be a statement of power, the avenue’s history includes rich outdoor parties, cabarets, once the ‘royal road’ to Louis XIV, a place of celebration, a marching ground for troops going to, and returning from, war. More recently, the set of many famous films and books, the site for New Year celebrations, Bastille Day parades, the grand finale of the Tour de France, world cup celebrations, and is a must see tourist destination.
However, Parisian’s believe ‘the legendary avenue has lost its splendour during the last 30 years’. The committee lobbying for the makeover is delighted with Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s announcement.
Once known by the French as 'the most beautiful avenue in the world'
“It’s often called the world’s most beautiful avenue, but those of us who work here every day are not at all sure about that,” Jean-Noël Reinhardt, the committee president said in 2019.
“The Champs-Élysées has more and more visitors and big-name businesses battle to be on it, but to French people it’s looking worn out.”
With traffic clogging the eight lane street, used by an average of 3,000 vehicles per hour, the avenue has become increasingly polluted. Large retailers line the streets, competing for attention. Parisians avoid the avenue, making up only 5% of the pedestrians. Many argue the romance and splendour, made famous in movies, no longer exists on the Champs-Élysées.
The Grand Plan
The plan, designed by PCA Stream, and beautifully rendered in the video above, involves the reduction of traffic, widening of footpaths to large promenades, filled with green space & trees, art work, interactive play grounds, bike lanes, parks, open plan cafés and restaurants. A full restoration to it’s former glory.
‘On the avenue, the promenade experience makes a comeback and flâneurs will be able to stroll up and down the historic boulevard in an atmosphere greatly improved by the reduction in motor traffic’, as described by PCA-Stream.
‘The gardens and the port of the Champs-Élysées, which are nowadays all but forgotten by Parisians, have extraordinary potential for new green spaces and to offer a place of experience and contemplation’.
The Place de la Concorde, at the end of the Louvre, will transform from a chaotic highway to a pedestrian and bicycle only, an area with a focus on fine dining, art & science, culture and playgrounds to accommodate families and children.
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