One criticism that I’ve heard levelled against Paris, time and time again, is that it’s basically a living museum, devoid of architectural innovation. Granted, its strict conservation laws have stopped a great deal of the development, which would bring it more in line with other modern metropolises. That being said, I don’t see that as being a particularly bad thing. Personally, I think part of Paris’ charm is that it hasn’t become one of those cities with a hodgepodge of skyscrapers marking the skyline.
I do, however, strongly contest that Paris is stuck in time. If anything, I think it has progressed into the modern age while holding onto its unique character. Indeed, there has been a sense of renewal and change quietly going on for many years. My part of Paris – the Dixième – is a fine example of this. Since moving here, close to a decade ago, we’ve noticed many new boutiques, speciality shops and restaurants taking over, and in turn the area has become ever so more bobo – bourgeois-bohemian.
This boboification has expanded even as far as Barbès, traditionally an area known for its cheapness and dubious character, especially around the metro station. It started a few years ago with the refurbishment of the Louxor cinema, which was protested against at the time by those who feared that it would, quite rightly as it turns out, start the process of gentrification in that area. A bright new shiny bistro, which wouldn’t look out of the place in the centre of Paris, has since popped up across from the cinema, with more places now under renovation.
The detractors of this bobification claim it is steadily forcing people to move out into the suburbs. In effect, they aren’t wrong. By upgrading the poorer areas, living there does become markedly more expensive, as both rising rents and the higher prices charged by local businesses makes it impossible for those on lower incomes to remain within the périphérique. Sadly, this isn’t a uniquely Parisian problem, as many cities face the same issue, even my beloved Sydney. Certainly, some of the current pricier inner city suburbs were veritable slums when I first lived there and the rents in these areas have sky-rocketed since I left – two totally unconnected events I’m sure.
For my part, I’m in two minds about the issue. On one hand I adore the revitalisation and the general change in ambiance that this process brings, but I’m also not a fan of idea of people being priced out of their own neighbourhoods. Regardless, this rejuvenation and prettying up of the Parisian arrondissements is unlikely to stop any time soon. So, it looks like we’ll all just have to adapt and accept our new and improved cityscape. Ah, the heart-wrenching struggles of first world problems.
That aside, it’s not entirely bad, who doesn’t like readily available gourmet cookies, after all?