La Promenade Plantee
We visit the original High Line—Paris's Promenade plantée—and report on how the first garden-built-on-an-abandoned-railway compares to New York's elevated garden.
Two weeks ago, I, your trusty online editor, went on vacation to France, and I thought I would put together a few slide shows of some of the things I saw that might be of interest to our GARDEN DESIGN readers.
One of the landmarks that I definitely wanted to see was the Promenade plantée or as it is also known, the Coulée verte, which transformed an old railroad track into an elevated garden. Here in New York, we have something similar, the High Line, and I wanted to see how the Parisian version compared.
[Click here to see our photos of the second phase of the High Line, which opened this year.]
The entrance is a bit nondescript, hidden away near the Bastille Metro stop.
The original railway line, which ran from Paris to Varenne-Saint-Maur, closed in 1969. The Promenade Plantee was built during a renovation of the area in the 1980s, when landscape architect Jacques Vergely and architect Philippe Mathieux created their idea of an elevated park. Completed in 2000, the park is 2.9 miles long.
As a funny side note, I couldn't remember what the park was called and so I tried asking a local bookstore clerk about it for directions. "It's a park, on a railroad," I mumbled, and at first, she had no idea what I was talking about. She turned around to ask her co-workers, saying "Have you heard of some sort of elevated park?" One of her co-worker knew about it and wrote down directions, saying that it was very beautiful. When I asked if she had ever been there, she said, "No, it's not near where I live. But I've heard it's nice." My husband and I laughed, because we thought that attitude was just like New Yorkers—praising a local attraction, but never having visited because it was too far!
The Promenade plantée, unlike the High Line, has had eleven years for its plants to fill in and so the street is often invisible when you're in the park.
At times, the park can feel like a long, narrow strip of greenery that just happens to be elevated, rather a former railway. Arches covered in vines and roses dot the walkway throughout its long stretch.
Some lengths of the park, on the other hand, bear more resemblance to New York's High Line, by incorporating visual cues that signify the park's former provenance as a railway.
The plantings are quite varied, such as this bamboo canopy.
There are a number of staircases (and a couple of elevators) that allow you to leave the walkway along its length and some, like this one, that seem to lead directly into an apartment building.
This section reminded me of how New York's High Line runs through the Standard Hotel, just as the Promenade plantée runs through existing buildings.
This water element was dry, but the path splits into two here, forming two different roads alongside the empty pool and its edging of lavender.
Though you can definitely see the street from different parts of the walkway—which is about three stories high—it still feels very much apart from the street in a way that's noticeably different from the High Line, which considers the surrounding neighborhood to be theater.
The idea of watching the public as theater is a very Parisian one, yet the Promenade plantée went in a different direction. It is consciously a place apart, a green oasis that is separate from the life below.
In the middle of the walkway is the Jardin de Reuilly, a large garden that was built in 1998, and a popular spot for people to picnic and relax.
One set of stairs leading up to the Promenade plantée has a vertical garden of sorts, with plants planted in stacked planters carved out of the wall.
In late September, the beds are still flowering with lantana, dahlias, and black-eyed Susans still in bloom.