4.2.09

Modern Montparnasse

During the 1960’s and 70’s a large part of the Montparnasse area was rebuilt. This included the Gare Montparnasse and the Tour Montparnasse. None of these are probably considered to be any architectural master pieces; it has even been seriously suggested to demolish the Tour, which is one of the few skyscrapers in Paris with its 56 stores. (The Paris skyscrapers are in the suburbs.) Today's rules include that no buildings in Paris must exceed 37 meters (120 ft) - even less in some areas, but this is now under discussion. We may in the future get some towers in the outer parts of Paris. Not only the railway station and tower were built, a large surrounding area was completely transformed. This is probably not what you at first hand would include in a tourist visit to Paris, but there are some interesting aspects to know.

This is the approximate area where most of the new buildings are situated.
If we start with the railway station, Gare Montparnasse, it differs thus considerably from the other Paris stations which have kept their 19th century architecture. (I have already made posts about Gare St.Lazare, Gare de l’Est, Gare de Lyon. Remain Gare du Nord and Gare d’Austerlitz.)

I show you what the old station used to look like and also a photo of a famous accident which took place in 1895 (Wikipedia photos). Gare Montparnasse is the station you would use if you leave for the west or south-west of France (Loire valley, Bordeaux, Brittany...) including by the fast TGV trains (see top photo), but it’s of course also a station for more local traffic. It’s a large station, actually divided in three, one of them replacing the old smaller Gare Vaugirard. There is a surprising park on top of the station - which you can reach by some direct stairs – surrounded by high modern buildings. It’s called Jardin (Garden) Atlantique, created in 1994. It’s an astonishly calm place if you consider the busy life in the area. When I was there last week, I was alone! As you can see from the photos, it’s of course not the best period to nicely illustrate a park.

At one end of the park, still on top of the station, there is a memorial to Field-Marshall Leclerc who as a general led the French troops participating in the Liberation of Paris in August 1944 and also a Jean Moulin museum. Jean Moulin was a high-profile member of the French Resistance during WW II. It can be noted that it was at Gare de Montparnasse (August 25, 1944) that the German governor of Paris, von Scholtitz, who disobeyed Hitler’s order to destroy Paris, surrendered to General Leclerc and Rol-Tanguy, the French resistance leader. To finish today, a few pictures from the surrounding area including some modern hotels and shopping malls, one of Paris’ leading jazz clubs, “Le Petit Journal” ... and also of Place de Catalogne, surrounded by buildings by Ricardo Bofill.

44 comments:

Michelle said...

I loved the old photos of the train station. That was a a terrible accident.
What an amazing park on top of the building. That is really a great use of space.

Shionge said...

Somehow when the place get too modern it looses it's essence.

Thérèse said...

Terrible cette photo de locomotive qui a traverse le mur de la gare! Interessant ce parallele "avant/apres."
Et je dois avouer un faible pour Boffil.

claude said...

Sûr que la gare actuelle n'a rien à voir avec celle que j'ai connue dans mon enfance. J'ai aussi une vielle carte postae de cette gare et celle avec le train qui est tombé est très célèbre.
Nous y allions souvent dans cette gare, le dimanche. Il y avait un cinéma permanent.

Leena said...

A good presentation about a modern architecture - big lines, no small decorations. . .
But gardens here and there are so humane and you of course mentioned them :)

Nice day to you, Peter!

Olivier said...

je dois avouer que j'ai horreur de cette gare, je la trouve pas belle (je préfère les veilles gares de Paris, avec une préférence pour la gare de Lyon) et en plus il y a des tonnes de couloir, tout est mal indiqué...par contre comme Thérèse j'aime beaucoup ta comparaison avec le vieux montparnasse.

hpy said...

Comme Claude j'ai des souvenirs de ce quartier, rue du Départ, rue de l'Arrivée, un trou béant entre les deux, avec une palissade en bois autour, collée d'affiches pour les présidentielles de 1969. Ma première visite à Paris, l'épicière qui détaillait du gruyère (avec des trous), la mousse au chocolat qui était on ne peut si délicieuse, et je m'arrête là, car il faut laisser de la place à tous les autres commentaires que tu vas recevoir aujourd'hui.

lyliane said...

J'ai aussi connu la vieille gare et je l'ai vu démolir.
Des départs de la gare Saint Lazare tu as oublié la direction du Plessis et de celle du Nord la direction de Cologne!
Il y a bien longtemps que je ne suis allée vers cette gare et montée dans cet immeuble, j'y avais d'ailleurs perdu ma voiture dans les parkings!!!
Pourtant je n'avais pas encore l'âge de perdre la mémoire, mais celui de perdre la tête....

alice said...

Bon, maintenant tu sais où prendre le train pour venir me voir!

Adam said...

I've never visited the 'jardin' before - I'll have to make the effort one day.

The Gare Montparnasse is a terrible place, heavy and oppressive with solid chunks of raw concrete. The Metro interchange isn't much better, full of staircases that are a real pain when you have luggage (as people tend to at stations!) and the silly 'fast' moving walkway that is NEVER working!

Cergie said...

Toujours aussi exhaustif et intéressant... Tu vois la gare St Lazare est laissée pour compte car elle n'a pas de TGV, elle.
Les immeubles (la tour Montparnasse comme l'opéra Bastille a tendance à perdre ses plaques), cela permet de libérer la place au sol. Pour des parcs par exemple. C'est de l'habitat intensif / habitat extensif.
[Tardi s'est approprié l'accident de la gare dans un de ses "Adèle Blansec"]

alice said...

J'ai oublié de te demander hier: tu étais dans la tour pour prendre tes photos?

Rakesh Vanamali said...

Great pictures Peter!

And reg the Film Slumdog Millionaire, I believe it is a wonderfully well made movie which is a captivating story of a rags to riches finctional incident! I have watched the movie and hopes it clinches a few oscars too!

Ruth said...

I've seen posters of that accident and always wondered what happened!

Mo said...

Montparnasse tower is a blot on the landscape. I hope skyscrapers stay outside the central city.

Mona said...

Old Order Changeth giving way to new...

Thanks for showing us some new exotic architectural structures of France!

delphinium said...

bon, moi ce qui me frappe sur tes photos, c'est que Paris est bien gris à cette saison. Et tu as raison, ce n'est peut-être pas la bonne saison pour photographier des jardins ou des parcs. Venant de Suisse, j'ai plutôt l'habitude d'arriver à la gare de lyon. Que je trouve très belle d'ailleurs. Bon, ça reste une gare, avec beaucoup de passage, du stress, des panneaux à déchiffrer.
Le TGV? train à grande vitesse? ben pas toujours. Quand le TGV qui précède tombe en panne, ceux qui suivent dans le TGV qui suit prennent beaucoup de retard. Et loupe les correspondances en Suisse.
Enfin c'est la dure loi des transports publics.
:-)
je t'embrasse

Catherine said...

La gare Montparnasse est assez impersonnelle, comme la tour qui lui fait face. Il fait assez sombre d'ailleurs à l'intérieur de la gare.

Le temps était gris comme sur les photos d'hier, mais ces batiments intensifient cette impression de grisaille ambiante.

Les nouvelles constructions derrière, à gauche de la gare sont intéressantes, l'arc de cercle sur la place de Catalogne très réussi.

Virginia said...

This is near our apartment I think. The park with the "ship" for the children looks like a place we will have to visit. I'll need some directions s.v.p! I had no idea there was a station in that area and I guess the tower should be visited at some point.
V

Claudia said...

I should think that the fantastic Place de Catalogne deserves a post of its own, it is a remarkable piece of modern architecture.
I find the Jardin Atlantique rather too drafty for comfort...
The best view over Paris is definitely from the top of the Montparnasse Tower if only because it's the only place in Paris where you can't see it :-)

Great post, as always, Peter!

Daniel said...

I thought more skyscrapers had already been approved: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/3073973/Images-of-first-Paris-skyscraper-leaked.html. Sounds like they will not be in the city center, but judging from the illustration in the linked article, their ugliness will be a pollution for miles around.

Maxime said...

Tu as vraiment le chic pour nous découvrir des endroits étonnants! Qui serait allé imaginer qu'un jardin se nichait sur le toit de la gare Monparnasse ?

Starman said...

I thought that train accident took place at Gare d'Orsay.

Babooshka said...

So much to see and do. Where too start. I like this series of images. It's very not the Paris we usually envisage, modern glass and concrete but it has a new beauty through your lens.

Peter said...

Michelle:
There was obviously a problem with the breaks. Only (if one can say so) one person was killed, a lady in the street.

Shionge:
What about Singapore then? :-)

Thérèse:
Un faible pour Bofill est excusable!

Peter said...

Claude:
Encore une fois, de la nostalgie parisienne! :-)

Leena:
I must return to the garden a nice spring or summer day and see how it is then!

Olivier:
C'est vrai qu'il faut marcher dans des couloirs, surtout pour arriver à certaines lignes de métro!

Peter said...

HPY:
Pas de soucis! Tu as toute la place que tu veux ici pour tes commentaires!

Lylaine:
Ce que tu racontes montre bien que tu n'as perdu la mémoire! :-)

Alice:
C'est vrai! Attention, je risque de venir! :-)

Peter said...

Adam:
I have been on that "silly" walkway once, the day it was working! Not easy to keep the balance!

Cergie:
C'était un peu les idées de Le Corbusier, construire des tours gigantesques et faire de la place au sol. Finalement jamais réalisé.

Alice:
Non, j'étais juste devant la Tour!

Nathalie said...

Moi j'ai plein de souvenirs de la gare Montparnasse et de sa tour encore très neuve quand je l'ai connue il y a 30 ans. Je prenais le train là pour aller à ma fac et j'ai eu mon premier petit boulot comme caissière aux Galeries Lafayette du centre commercial de la tour Montparnasse. Ce sont plutot de bons souvenirs...

Je ne connaissais pas l'accident de la locomotive qui avait traversé la gare. Affolant !

Il me semble que la place de Catalogne pourrait un jour justifier un post pour elle-même, avec plus de détails sur l'architecture de Bofill

Peter said...

Rakesh:
With seven nominations, it should have a fair chance!! :-)

Ruth:
As I briefly said above: The train was a bit late and the driver, who wanted to arrive more or less in time, started breaking too late. It seems also that the emergency breaks didn't work. Few people were injured (the passenger waggons remained on the quay), but one woman was killed, on the street, not by the locomotive, but by a falling piece. The railway company paid a pension to her two kids. The locomotive was hardly damaged.

Peter said...

Mo:
If we get new skyscrapers, it will certainly not be in the centre!

Mona:
Yes, of course you must make place now and then. The architecture of the 60's and 70's is however often critisised. I suppose that Haussmann was much critisised also, but today we often consider that "this is Paris". Let's see what the future generations will say.

Delphinium:
Tu as de la chance d'arriver à la plus belle gare!
Avec ce temps, les TGV (et les autres trains) ont eu beaucoup de problèmes. ... et c'est difficile de doubler un autre train! :-) Je t'embrasse également!

Peter said...

Catherine:
Nous sommes, je crois, tous d'accord sur la Place de Catalogne!

Virginia:
If you enter the station, you will find some stairs leading to the garden! If you need some help, I hope of course to be there!

Claudia:
You are right; maybe I should have given some more space to Bofill!
(I never went to the top of the Tower. I guess I must do it one day, if possible with a clear blue sky.)

Peter said...

Daniel:
There will most certainly be some new towers, but not in the middle of the city. Officially I beleive it's still under debate, but...!

Maxime:
Le jardin est assez caché, entouré par des immeubles géants. En plus, dans la gare, il faut vraiment chercher les escaliers!

Starman:
Now you know! :-)

Peter said...

Babboshka:
I don't know if it looks nicer than in real, thanks to my lens? :-)

Nathalie:
A la demande de Claudia et de toi, je pense que je dois retourner Place de Catalogne! :-) Le problème, c'est que l'accès des immeubles est fermé. On ne peut pas rentrer dans les cours!

alice said...

Et bien, moi, je la déteste, cette place de Catalogne, je la trouve froide, elle me glace, j'ai l'impression d'être dans un pays de l'Est encore sous une dictature. Les rares fois où je passe par là, je me dis que je ne voudrais pas y habiter!

Dusty Lens said...

We didn't care for that big black tower in the center of the city. But I wonder about the view from there. I hope the glass and concrete boxes stay out of historic Paris. We were dismayed to see a McDonalds by the Louvre.

Neva said...

Amazing photos! that is really quite the train wreck....egads.....not something I need to experience!
(shannon is currently in Thailand, then to Laos, Cambodia, then back to Thailand, then to back India.....no plans after India...but her ticket home is on May 1! Thanks for asking)

Peter said...

Alice:
Je te comprends. Je crois qu'il faut voir les immeubles aussi de l'autre coté, mais on arrive mal... desportes fremées!

Dusty Lens:
No objection from my side to your statements!

Neva:
That is real travelling!

JM said...

I really enjoyed your post but what impressed me the most was the old photo of the train accident! Incredible!

catherine said...

je n'ai pas vu dans les commentaires si quelqu'un faisait référence au fait que Montparnasse est toujours le quartier des Bretons. C'est un peu notre cordon ombilical avec notre région !

Peter said...

JM:
Sorry, I was not there to take that one! :-)

Catherine:
Non, tu es la première je crois!

GMG said...

The Tour isn't special, but I remember it had a great view from the the top... ;)

Virginia said...

Peter,
Of course, we will welcome your company and maybe your grandchildren would like to join us on that wonderful ship atop the station. I think my Davis will LOVE that!
V

Peter said...

GMG:
I never visited the top! I will do it a day with clear sky!

Virginia:
We (you) have a lot to do during your next visit!