It’s often said that taking a train from London to Paris is much simpler – faster, even – than travelling from central Paris to its suburbs. The French capital’s most cut-off banlieues have always suffered from a lack of reliable trains. That’s why the Grand Paris Express could prove so revolutionary.
This all-new 200km railway network, projected to open by 2030, will comprise four brand new train lines alongside extensions of Lines 11 and 14, with 68 new stations serving an estimated two million passengers every day. Trains will come every two or three minutes. And – because why not? – each station will be a one-off collaboration between a well-known artist and an architect.
Stromae, Luc Junior Tam and Kengo Kuma’s design. Photograph: SGP
The Société du Grand Paris has revealed a list of 36 creative pairings lined up for the project, and the blueprints for some of their initial designs are, let’s just say, rather ambitious.
Most far-fetched of all may be the Saint-Denis Pleyel station: a three-way collaboration between Belgian pop star Stromae, his brother Luc Junior Tam and architect Kengo Kuma. The design shows a gigantic tree suspended by super-strong ‘roots’ above the terminal. It wouldn’t look out of place in a Studio Ghibli animé.
Also upping the ‘quirky AF’ stakes are Pablo Valbuena and Jérôme Brunet, who have proposed installing a 17-metre-tall steel and LED sculpture at Issy, south-west of the centre. Meanwhile, Abdelkader Benchamma and Frédéric Neau’s plans for Vitry, to the south-east, resemble a rainbow-hued grotto.
Pablo Valbuena and Jérôme Brunet’s design. Photograph: SGP
Not all the designs have been released yet, and we’re particularly buzzed to check out Clichy-Montfermeil station – which will see elusive street artist JR team up with Italian architect Benedetta Tagliabue – and Sevran-Livry, a collaboration between Daniel Buren (of Palais-Royal columns fame) and Jean-Marie Duthilleul.
Think you’ve seen Paris? Give it a decade, and there’ll be whole new swathes to explore.