Parc de la Villette is one of Paris largest parks, situated in the 19 arrondissement of Paris. Although it has many attractions, three major concert venues, a music museum and a popular City of Science and Industry or Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie in its original language, not many people visit Parc de la Villette. This low rate of visitors is probably due to the fact that the park is located far away from the city center. Nevertheless, if you want to experience a different atmosphere and learn some culture, Parc de la Villette is worth a visit.
History of Parc de la Villette
Parc de la Villette was built on the site of the largest slaughterhouse in Paris. This site also posed as the national wholesale meat market. The slaughterhouse was built on the instructions of Napoleon III as part of the redevelopment urban plan in 1867. Years before Parc de la Villette started to be built, the slaughterhouse was relocated to a new place in 1974.
It was Bernard Tschumi, a Swiss-born French architect, whose design won the competition in 1982-1983. Tschumi was a bright architect who went to several best architectural schools including Princeton and Columbia University. His winning design was then used for the construction of the new park. A deconstructionist philosopher, Jacques Derrida, was also known to contribute his ideas during the creative process of Tschumi’s winning design.
Several architects had been recognized helping with the park creation. Several noted architects were Philippe Chaix, Christian de Portzamparc, Jean-Paul Morel, Adrien Fainsilber, Jean Nouvel, and Méziane Azaïche.
Parc de la Villette – The Design
Parc de la Villette’s design is full of points, lines, and surfaces. Tschumi, the designer of the park, claimed that his design of the park was meant to be a post-modern deconstructivism. Hence the big role of the famous deconstructionist figure Jacques Derrida in the design. Tschumi also explained that Parc de la Villette was not a conventional park whose intend was for relaxation and self-indulgence, but rather that it was created as a park that allowed activities and interactions.
Parc de la Villette
The park is full of cultural activities including concerts and performances from both local and mainstream artists and musicians scheduled all year long. An I-MAX theater and a convention center are completing the cultural attractions of the park. Shadow puppeteers and small performances are constant attractions of the park.
An open-air film festival is held annually at Parc de la Villette. In 2010, the theme of the festival was “Avoir 20 ans” or “To be 20” which celebrated the young age. Films featured in the festival were all toying around the idea of youth and self-discovery around age 20.
The park also features the biggest science museum in Europe, the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie. Across it is Canal de l’Ourcq, a canal which hosts boats which provide transportation and tours for visitors.
As mentioned before, Parc de la Villette offers various attractions to its visitors. Here are some of the best attractions to be found.
Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie (City of Science and Industry)
As the biggest science museum in Europe, Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie naturally attracts a large number of visitors. Shortly called The Cité, the museum was uniquely designed to be built mostly by glass and iron by Adrien Fainsilber. A planetarium can be found inside the museum as well as many hands-on exhibits for youngsters or those who are young at heart. There is also a navigation museum near The Cité named the Argonaute which displays a submarine from 1950s.
As it was mentioned before, Parc de la Villette is full of art and musical performances throughout the year. These performances definitely need a place to present them. Therefore, concert halls are integral parts of the park. Three most prominent concert halls are The Grand Hall which was designed by Bernard Reichen and Philippe Robert, Zenith Concert Hall at the east of the park, and The Cité la Musique at the southern area of the park.
As part of its deconstructive style, the park provides many open spaces or also called prairies. These prairies are perfect locations for visitors who want to relax, have fun with their families, and enjoy the view of Canal de l’Ourcq.
Parc de la Villette
Ten thematic gardens are presented as representations of deconstructive architecture. Each garden conveys different theme either it is minimalist in design or playful in mind. Le Jardin du Dragon features a large sculptural steel dragon with an 80 feet long slide for children to play on. Jardin de Bambou is a garden full of bamboo designed by Alexandre Chemetoff.
Follies have been a universal theme in Parc de la Villette. Primarily created as decorations, these follies strengthen the deconstructivism principal that the whole park is based on. Furthermore, these follies serve visitors as a navigational aid when they move around.
Visiting Parc de la Villette
There are two metro stations near Parc de la Villette, Corentin Cariou (line 7) and Porte de Pantin (line 5). If you choose to travel by bus, there are two bus stations inside the park, Porte de Pantin (The Grand Hall) and Porte de la Villette (Cité des Sciences).
There is no entrance fee and the park is open all day long. However, an internal rules forbid visitors to enter the park between 1 to 6 am.